On Friday, Governor Nikki Haley issued 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million in the state budget. However, in an unusual twist, the governor’s decision has the consequence of immediately shuttering two state agencies.
Because the governor did not get the budget from lawmakers until June 29– the Friday before the new fiscal year began– her vetoes have the unprecedented effect of taking place immediately. Normally, vetoes are taken up in mid-June, a few weeks before the new fiscal year.
The late date is bad news for the state Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium– a pair of agencies that handle grants. Both had all of their funding vetoed.
“We’re going to have to basically suspend operations until this is resolved,” Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May told South Carolina Radio Network. He said there are 20 employees at the agency.
Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell said Friday that his chamber will return on July 17 to take up the vetoes. “While it was our original intent to come back in September to address budget vetoes, the ambiguity created by some of the Governor’s vetoes… needs to be addressed sooner rather than later,” Harrell said in a statement Friday.
The Senate says it will return on July 18.
The Comptroller General’s Office said neither agency can spend any more money unless the legislature overrides the governor. “I regret that these agencies were given one day to deal with this,” Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom told the Associated Press.
The Arts Commission mainly offers grants for programs in various communities and schools. May said the agency has already approved $1.5 million in grants, but will not be able to pay them out unless lawmakers override the governor’s veto. Haley has said repeatedly that there are plenty of private foundations that can help fund the projects.
“There is a difference between arts and the Arts Commission,” she told reporters in a Friday press conference, “I would rather give this money to the taxpayers and let them decide which money they’re going to give money to.”
Democrats slammed the vetoes. “Obviously, the governor hasn’t taken the time to look at the millions in economic activity that the arts and those grants produce in South Carolina,” Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Sea Grant Consortium is an entity that helps the state’s colleges secure and handle federal funding for different coastal research projects. It also follows up with city planners and others who use the research data afterwards. Haley says the state’s colleges are more than capable of setting up a partnership without state funding.
Consortium executive director Rick DeVoe said he had been caught off-guard by the chain of events. “I think this is unprecedented… it’s uncharted territory, so to speak.”
DeVoe said the governor’s veto means they cannot hand out the roughly half-million dollars in research grants they were able to secure in January. The agency has 14 full-time employees.
The governor also vetoed both agencies’ budgets last year. However, legislators easily overrode her on each.