The South Carolina Senate Wednesday completed the legislature’s answer to Gov. Nikki Haley’s 81 state budget vetoes, ending a legislative year that lasted 28 weeks.
A day after the South Carolina House of Representatives overrode 51 of Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget vetoes, the Senate agreed with them on all but three: two dealing with the Jasper Port and one Department of Social Services local program for women in Edgefield County.
Haley Wednesday said she appreciates the amount of vetoes the House sustained, “It’s a lot of vetoes from my days of being a legislator; we never saw that many. So what I appreciate is the fact that I honestly think the Legislature took time to read the explanations, we spent a lot of time educating them on these. Did we get all that I wanted? No. But did I get to see them take a lot of that pork and irresponsible spending out of the budget? Yes.”
The Senate changed its mind after sustaining Haley’s veto of the use of the state’s part in a national settlement with banks for their mortgage practices that resulted in mass foreclosures. The budget gave the money to the Commerce Department to close deals with new companies.
“Call it what you want to call it, it’s wrong,” Scott said in the first real back-and-forth of the afternoon, “Money that was taken from folk who lost their homes because the banks took advantage of them.”
After an hour of heated debate, the override passed by one vote.
Another prolonged debate centered on whether or not to fund a joint South Carolina-Georgia board that oversees the future Jasper Ocean Terminal. Lawmakers have made the Joint Project Office (JPO), and its work, part of its ongoing–and legally complex– argument with the governor over whether or not Georgia should be allowed to dredge the Savannah River.
The Senate sided with the governor in maintaining the authority of the JPO, instead of giving more of it over to a SC legislative commission.
In another budget item, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal personally asked lawmakers to maintain funding for its IT and digital infrastructure. She told South Carolina Radio Network that the courts are converting to e-filing and that cutting this money would “stop them in their tracks.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Larry Martin in asking for the override, said the veto would “cut to the quick” of the judicial budget.”
The second of two vetoes to the arts commission was better received in the Senate than in the House as Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken), Sen. Tom Davis (R- Beaufort) and Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) questioned the need to devote public money to the arts. The vetoed provision added $500,000 to fund local arts projects.
Davis, who says he is a supporter of the arts locally, said, “They become accustomed to having government step in and do it for them. The money that we’re taking from taxpayers here and then sending it down through a bureaucratic maze, if we stop that practice completely, individuals would sponsor the arts as they have historically done before we created this dependency state.”
The Senate overwhelmingly sided (39-2) with the House in overriding the veto to the State Health Department’s Rape Crisis Network. Richland Sen. Joel Lourie took aim at Gov. Haley’s characterization of the services as “special interests.
“I hope you are listening, because you need to spend a little less time on Facebook and a little more time being a stateswoman and a governor,” blasted Lourie.
In a press conference, the governor retorted,”If you have a way I could have said it differently, I’m open to saying that. Was it a special group picked out of a group of those? Yes. Was it put in the wrong place? Yes. Was it one-time money? Yes. So if you have a different way for me to say that I happy to have suggestions.”
Other overrides include:
-$500,000 for SC Department of Agriculture’s “SC grown” marketing
-$15,000 for a mandatory peer review audit for the Legislative Audit Council
-$4 million for a Clemson University Advanced Plant Technology Lab
-$3 million for the Rural Infrastructure Fund
-$1,173,826 for Governor’s School for Science and Math construction completion
-$200,000 for DHEC AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)