An effort to create a regional economic development council along the Interstate 95 corridor failed Tuesday after South Carolina House Republicans upheld Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto.
By a 76-47 party-line vote, the House sustained Haley’s veto of legislation that would have created the I-95 Corridor Authority– a 19-member board that could apply for grants and coordinate local governments for economic development purchases.
Haley said the new body was not necessary and would copy what the state’s Commerce Department is already doing in the area. Most House members originally supported the council (it passed 84-17 last May), but switched after backlash from conservative groups who accused them of adding a new layer of bureaucracy.
State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) blasted her colleagues’ vote from the House floor Tuesday. “In spite of what you’ve been told, this is not creating another bureaucracy. In spite of what you’ve been told, this is not using taxpayer dollars.”
Cobb-Hunter and other Democrats from the area– often referred to as the “Corridor of Shame” due to its poverty and lack of infrastructure– accused their opponents of sabotaging efforts to bring economic growth to the region.
Haley vetoed the bill in June. “I encourage local governments and local chambers to work together in the spirit of cooperation set forth in this bill,” the governor wrote at the time, “but this cooperation does not require a General Fund appropriation or a new state agency.”
Sen. John Matthews (D-Orangeburg), who sponsored the legislation, said confusion led to the veto. Although the council was not supposed to receive state funds, he said, language was included in the bill that would have given the legislature the option to fund it in the future.
The bill reads, “The authority shall receive state funds as appropriated by the General Assembly.” It’s that one line that has led to concern from Lowcountry 9.12 and other conservative groups– even though the General Assembly did not plan to fund the authority anytime soon.
The Senate overrode the governor 30-10 in June, but the House’s action effectively kills the bill.