Gov. Nikki Haley issued 81 budget vetoes worth more than $94 million from the state spending plan Tuesday.
However, she agreed to keep $26 million to expand 4-year-old kindergarten—which was pushed by a likely opponent in the 2014 election, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw).The House will return on Wednesday to take up the vetoes. The Senate will be back in on Thursday. It would require a two-thirds vote from both chambers to override the governor.
Currently, eight school districts are receiving state dollars to offer 4K as part of a pilot program. The 2013-2014 budget would expand that to other school districts with a high percentage of at-risk children. It would be distributed amongst districts based on their percentages of children receiving free and reduced lunch.
Haley says she does not support the idea, but she agrees with the need to get children in high poverty areas ready for school. “I’m not going to say that my way is the only way to do it,” she told reporters. “I do know these are areas that are challenged and I do know these are areas where we need to step up and do more. I’m willing to test it and see how it goes.”
South Carolina Democrats immediately praised Sheheen for getting the money into the budget, but bashed the governor. “Early childhood education is key to improving the quality of education for our next generation of workers,” state party chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “We know that the earlier you invest in a child’s education, the more equipped that child is for success in higher education bang for the buck you get. The Governor’s silence on public education has been a disgrace.”
Haley also kept language that would allow taxpayers and businesses to claim a tax credit if they donate to private school scholarships for disabled students.
The governor did target Arts Commission funding for the third consecutive year. Haley said this year’s veto would only affect the commission’s administrative costs, which she called “concerning.” It would leave arts grants and staff in place. However, agency director Ken May said the more than $417,000 cut would make it difficult for the commission to operate.
Haley also targeted the Sea Grant Consortium for a third straight year. The agency is a partnership from the state’s universities that tries to secure research funding. But the governor has long argued that the schools could partner without needing a specific state agency.
In an effort to encourage that partnership, she vetoed the salary of the consortium’s director Rick DeVoe. Legislators have easily overridden her vetoes in the past, arguing the consortium is able to secure hundreds of thousands in funding with better efficiency than individual schools.
Haley also blocked $3.1 million to various nonprofit health organizations such as the Nurse Family Partnership and Donate Life SC (which maintains an organ donor registry). Haley says they are good causes but the state shouldn’t pick specific private nonprofit groups to fund.
“Each… serve a laudable purpose; the stories of those affected by these diseases tug at our heartstrings,” Haley wrote, “At the same time, how do we decide to distribute funds to fight colon cancer, but not breast cancer?”
The governor also removed $3 million from the Office on Aging that would have gone to expand the number of vouchers offered to South Carolinians who stay home to care for elderly or disabled family members. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (who runs the Office on Aging) had pushed for the additional funds, and was furious at the governor’s veto.
“It’s not a new program. It was adding to it because our current program is not sufficient,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. He had wanted to increase the number of vouchers that a caregiver could receive, arguing that it would help those struggling to care for loved ones.
Haley said, while she sympathized with family caregivers, she could not justify a 45 percent increase in the Lt. Governor’s Office budget.