Gov. Haley's vetoes eliminate 2 SC agencies

Gov. Haley

 

COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget vetoes include wiping out two agencies, the state Arts Commission and Sea Grant Consortium, in an unprecedented move that puts 38 people in limbo.

The governor’s 81 vetoes, tallying $67.5 million, would also cut money for teachers’ pay raises, designate less money to a Commerce fund for closing economic development deals, and cut dozens of items she calls wasteful local projects and earmarks.

That includes money for a North Myrtle Beach museum, preserving African-American history sites in Charleston, a commuter mass transit service between Camden and Columbia, prescription drugs for AIDS patients, a nonprofit that serves sexual assault victims, parks, and buying land to preserve the nation’s first community of freed slaves on Hilton Head Island.

“This was a disappointment. It’s embarrassing for them. It’s embarrassing for me, and it should be infuriating to the taxpayers,” Haley said Friday, in explaining the vetoes she delivered minutes before her midnight Thursday deadline. “This is taking bacon home to their people. I know the people of this state don’t want it. The people of this state want tax relief.”

Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman said the term “pork project” is a misnomer. He said the projects represent investments in different parts of the state.

Haley alleged the money was doled out to senators in an effort to buy their votes to defeat her priority legislation. Leatherman called that absurd – a chuckle was his only other response. Even a key ally in the Senate said he has no evidence that happened.

Haley’s vetoes remove all funding for the state Arts Commission and Sea Grant Consortium. The small agencies were slated to receive a combined $2.4 million in state money out of the Legislature’s $6.7 billion budget plan. Haley wiped out federal money for the agencies, too.

Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said Friday the elimination of agencies five days into a fiscal year creates an unprecedented situation. He told their directors not to incur any more expenses, and he’s seeking legal guidance on how to treat employees who did nothing wrong.

Haley eliminated funding for both agencies last year, too. But the Legislature overrode those vetoes. This year, legislators didn’t finalize their budget plan until last Thursday. The new budget took effect with the delivery of her vetoes.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is calling legislators back July 17 to consider overrides. He had planned to wait until mid-September. But Harrell said the two agencies’ predicament, as well as the money for teacher raises, should be addressed sooner.

Meanwhile, the two agencies are in limbo. Even if the Legislature overrides the vetoes, it’s unclear whether employees could ever get paid for the interim time, Eckstrom said.On the Arts Commission, Haley said she would rather let taxpayers decide what charities they want to support. She said it’s not a government function.

But its director, Ken May, said without a public agency focused on the arts, rural areas of the state won’t have access. A major initiative is awarding grants to public schools to provide all students “a basic education in the arts,” he said.

Haley disagreed, noting the State Museum provides traveling exhibits. She referred to a photo display on her historic win as the state’s first female and first minority governor.

But the exhibit is not provided for free. According to the State Museum’s Web site, it costs $300 a month.

Haley also vetoed $10 million in one-time money allocated to school districts to help boost teachers’ salaries by 2 percent. She left in place $39 million designated in recurring money, as well as budget clauses mandating that districts provide the 2 percent raises, as well as a step increase for years of experience – increases frozen during the economic downturn.

Haley called the use of one-time money for salaries irresponsible.

But advocates for public education say the veto’s practical effect is that districts will either have to raise local taxes to make up the difference, dig into reserves if they can, employ fewer teachers or cut other personnel.

A LOOK AT WHAT HALEY VETOED

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed 74 items in the Legislature’s $6.7 billion budget and seven items in a separate bill spending $100 million from a rainy-day account that wasn’t needed. They would remove a combined $67.5 million. A sampling:

• $10.1 million to support teacher pay raises

• $10 million transferred from the national mortgage settlement to Commerce for closing deals

• $3 million fund for rural infrastructure projects; Haley notes it has $20 million in the bank

• $1.9 million for the Arts Commission

• $500,000 in Arts Commission grants

• $1.5 million for technology for the Judicial Department

• $1.2 million toward boosting enrollment at the Governor’s School of Science & Math

• $1.25 million for construction at the Governor’s School for Arts & Humanities

• $750,000 for window replacement at Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School

• $600,000 for State Farmers Market operations

• $500,000 for Department of Agriculture to market SC-grown products

• $454,000 for SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

• $428,000 for Sea Grant Consortium

• $300,000 for North Myrtle Beach historical museum

• $250,000 for Charles Lea Center for the disabled

• $200,000 to buy land to preserve Mitchelville, nation’s first community of freed slaves

• $200,000 for Southeastern Wildlife Exposition marketing

• $200,000 for SC Center for Fathers and Families

• $200,000 for DHEC’s head lice program that provides schools with special shampoos

• $200,000 for AIDS Drug Assistance Program through DHEC

 

Source: The governor’s office

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