COLUMBIA --- Children's immunizations, technical colleges, and forest firefighters were among items spared the budget ax Wednesday as South Carolina legislators considered 107 vetoes.
But research programs designed to create jobs didn't survive as the House worked its way through Gov. Mark Sanford's vetoes. Items cut from the budget by upheld vetoes included universities' nanotechnology, hydrogen fuel cell, and transportation research and money to help entrepreneurs succeed.
"The thing that brings you out of a recession is small business," said Rep. Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville. If legislators get stuck in a mentality to keep cutting no matter what, he said, "we're going to wind up poor, barefooted, broke and behind Mississippi."
The largest single cut of $25 million came to the agency that runs much of the state's bureaucracy, which Sanford has fought for years. The state Budget and Control Board's executive director, Frank Fusco, says the upheld veto will lay off 180 workers, close offices that make budget projections and monitor spending, and put in limbo how state workers and vendors will be paid, leaving the state open to lawsuits.
Earlier Wednesday, the House and Senate approved a compromise economic incentives bill that dropped the idea of doing away with corporate income taxes over 10 years.
Legislators nearly unanimously overrode vetoes to cut $4 million from the state's technical colleges. Some lawmakers said it was madness to eliminate money to run the schools that businesses rely on and that are vital as jobless workers seek training.
The House saved $4.5 million Sanford wanted cut from the Department of Health and Environmental Control that would have decimated the agency's operations, laying off 179 workers. It also saved the agency $3.2 million that could have ended various health programs, including childhood immunizations, restaurant inspections and AIDS drug assistance.
Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, successfully argued to spare the Forestry Commission, already down by 100 employees. A $1.1 million cut would have laid off 30 additional workers and cut basics like fuel and insurance. Other items spared included $5 million for ETV, the state's educational television and radio network, $5 million for public libraries and $1.6 million to keep open the State Museum.