A $50,000 cut from Gov. Mark Sanford is hitting the Southeastern Wildlife Expo at the worst time. Sanford’s veto pen is usually ignored by the legislature, but a particularly tough budget year led Statehouse members to preserve nearly half of Sanford’s line-item cuts.

Among them was the $50,000 SEWE contribution from the state Department of Natural Resources. It’s a substantial portion of the festival’s $1.3 million budget and particularly important as organizers spend the summer and fall preparing for next February, says SEWE President and CEO Jimmy Huggins.

“I don’t know that we can make it up,” he says. “This thing is almost a perfect storm.”

Art sales that account for much of the festival revenue have been down for the past two years and snowy weather this year kept big-spending out-of-town patrons home.

The governor said he objected to the expense because of budget cuts that have hampered DNR staff. Sanford said he recognized that SEWE was an important event for Charleston, much like Spoleto.

“In the case of Spoleto, we have successfully advocated that the event stand on its own with regard to state funding … we believe the Wildlife Expo should do the same,” Sanford wrote in his veto message.

Huggins stresses that SEWE brings money into the state’s coffers. “It’s sort of like priming the pump with us,” he says. “It’s a good business investment for the state.”

SEWE will be looking for grants and asking more of its corporate sponsors, Huggins says. And they’ll be coming back to legislators next year, explaining that this isn’t just a bill that needs to be paid or a donation to a cause, it’s an investment.

It won’t be a hard sell, the organization had a majority of support from the state House in an attempt to override Sanford’s decision, but it didn’t have the three-quarters needed.

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