Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed 81 items in the 2012-2013 state budget, including money that had been set aside for education, healthcare, museums, and the arts.
Haley waited until the final hours Thursday night to announce her vetoes, which were due to the Legislature at midnight. In all, the governor wants to block about $57 million in the state’s $6.7 billion budget, a marked decrease from her $213 million veto package in 2011. And she came nowhere close to the legendary vetoes of previous Gov. Mark Sanford, who attempted to strike a whopping $314 million from the budget in 2010.
“Recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States will radically change our healthcare system and skew the costs of employment nationwide,” Haley writes in a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Bobby Harrell explaining this year’s vetoes. “Now is not the time to return to our old ways of constituent-driven earmarks.” In her explanations for the cuts, Haley laments the return of “pork barrell [sic] spending” and recommends “shutting down programs that don’t work.”
As the governor notes in her letter to Harrell, the veto is “a blunt tool” that can only strike out entire lines from the budget, rather than excising specific parts of budget lines with which she disagrees. Here are some of the items Haley vetoed:
• $10,070,600 in non-recurring funds to help school districts pay teacher salaries. Meanwhile, Haley approved another budget line that contains $38.6 million in new, recurring money for teacher salaries. “Using an additional $10 million in one-time money for the same purpose, however, is the equivalent of making a promise about next year’s budget that we can’t be certain we’ll be able to keep,” Haley writes. Charleston County teachers fought for months to have their promised annual salary increases restored, lobbying both the local school board and the Legislature to approve funding to catch them up on two years’ worth of missed pay.
• $182,761 for the Writing Improvement Network and $155,869 for the S.C. Geographic Alliance at USC, two programs that Education Superintendent Mick Zais had recommended for elimination.
• $5,500,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund for renovation of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Ashley Tower. “I have approved each of the deferred maintenance allocations contained within this legislation but would ask MUSC to renovate Ashley Tower using the resources already at its disposal,” Haley writes.
• $2,000,000 in non-recurring funds for a digital technology pilot project at the College of Charleston.
• $200,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund for upgrades to the Citadel’s Jenkins Hall Arms Room.
• $453,680 for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, $100,000 for the Bleeding Disorders Premium Assistance Program, $500,000 for the Office of Rural Health Benefit Bank, and $100,000 for the James R. Clark Memorial Sickle Cell Foundation. Haley explained these vetoes in the Department of Health and Environmental Control budget by writing, “Each of these lines attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused. Overall, these special add-on lines distract from the agency’s broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health.”
• $101,000 for the Commission on Indigent Defense. This line would have increased state funding for the commission by about 75 percent and helped fund an information technology upgrade.
• $500,000 for marketing and branding at the Department of Agriculture. “While I applaud Commissioner Weathers’ achievements in making South Carolina produce world-renowned,” Haley writes, “this one-time money would be an unsustainable spike in resources.”
• $200,000 for City of Charleston African-American Historic Sites Preservation. “After several years of economic downturn, which led to better prioritization, one good year has ushered in the return of these pork projects,” Haley wrote, explaining her reasoning for striking down this line and others intended to fund museums in Hilton Head and North Myrtle Beach.
• $200,000 in regional marketing and advertising funds for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. She explained this, along with some cuts to funding for specific parks, by writing, “They are earmarks for specific projects or events that will benefit very specific communities and organizations, and which do not rise to a level of statewide significance.”
• $3,446,946 for the S.C. Arts Commission, plus $500,000 in non-recurring grants. Haley criticized the amount of overhead in the agency’s budget, with 30 percent of the funds dedicated to administration, personnel, and operating expenses. “Who would donate to a charity that spent that much money on overhead?” Haley asked. “Instead of taking a command-and-control approach to promoting the arts, we would be better off returning these funds to the public, to let them decide for themselves what artistic endeavors deserve financial support.” In nonprofit circles, the too-much-overhead argument is an iffy one. Bob Otenhoff, CEO of nonprofit watchdog site Guidestar.org, has said that “judging a nonprofit on the basis of overhead is a little like judging an airline on how little it spends on maintenance.”
Legislators will return to Columbia soon to debate whether to override the vetoes. A date has not yet been set for their return.