By James T. Hammond
Published July 19, 2012
The state Senate defied Gov. Nikki Haley's vetoes on a variety of issues Wednesday, restoring funding for the arts, ocean research and teacher pay raises.
The Senate also restored in a 39-2 vote the $453,680 for the state’s 15 rape crisis centers, money that Haley had vetoed.
Haley’s action drew sharp protests from many senators. But Sens. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, and Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, voted to uphold Haley’s veto of the rape crisis funds.
In 2011, there were more than 5,000 victims of rape and sexual abuse in South Carolina, said Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla.
Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said failure to restore the funds and services would be “callous.”
Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, described Haley’s veto of the rape crisis funds as “the most cruel, outrageous and incredible veto I have ever seen. For Gov. Haley to call victims of rape and sexual abuse a ‘special interest group’ is embarrassing to me. Governor, you should be ashamed of this veto.”
Teacher pay increases
The General Assembly had mandated a 2% pay increase for public school teachers, and funded it with approximately $50 million. But Haley disagreed with a $10 million portion of that money that was to come from non-recurring funds and vetoed that amount.
Members of the Senate said local school districts were still required to give the 2% pay increase, and would have to dig into their own local funds if the veto were to stand.
The House on Tuesday voted 106-6 to override the governor’s veto and the Senate followed Wednesday with a 36-5 vote. The $10 million will be restored to the state budget to help pay for the salary increases.
In other education-related votes, the Senate restored funding for two Education Improvement Act programs to improve writing skills ($182,761) and for the S.C. Geographic Alliance ($155,869); and to improve financial literacy ($200,000).
Haley also had vetoed funding for the Sea Grant Consortium, which coordinates research grants to universities in the state. The House vote to override the veto was 102-10, followed by a 34-7 vote in the Senate to restore the program.
Arts funding restored
In one of the most controversial moves, Haley had vetoed all of the funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission. With the legislative session running over into the new fiscal year that started July 1, the veto temporarily put the agency out of business.
The veto drew a sharp response from across the state, with demonstrations held outside the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to reject the veto. On Tuesday, the House had voted 110-5 to override the veto. On Wednesday, the Senate followed with a 29-10 vote to restore the agency’s funding.
In a related 29-12 vote, the Senate rejected Haley’s veto of an additional $500,000 to be used as grants to local arts programs.
In other actions, the Senate:
- Restored staff funding for the Certificate of Need program, which must authorize major additions to health care institutions. The Certificate of Need requirement remained law, and senators said eliminating the staff to administer the program would bring changes and improvements to a standstill.
- Restored $1.2 million for the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics to expand its student body in Hartsville from 120 to 300. The money was the final installment of a three-year phase-in of the school’s expansion program.
- Restored $3 million to the Rural Infrastructure Fund, which supports economic development in rural parts of the state. Sen. John Land, D-Manning, described the fund as “the life’s blood of rural South Carolina. Without these improvements, many needed projects would not get done.”
- Restored $1 million for the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, told his fellow senators that the funds would attract $4 million in federal matching funds.
- Voted 40-2 to restore funding to the Judicial Department for information-technology upgrades for the state’s courts system.
- Restored $200,000 to pay for marketing of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston.
- Restored $200,000 for the Center for Fathers and Families. The organization facilitates the collection of child support payments and seeks alternatives to jail time for failure to pay child support.
- Restored $2 million to Clemson University PSA to develop a program in advanced plant technology. The Senate also restored $100,000 in operating funds for PSA.
- Restored $2 million for the College of Charleston to create an interactive digital technology pilot project.
- Both chambers also rejected Haley’s veto of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCOR, which provides research grants to universities in the state.
- Restored $500,000 to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for marketing and branding of the state’s agriculture products in its Certified South Carolina roadside market campaign.
- Restored $600,000 to the Department of Agriculture to support farmers market operations in Lexington County, Florence County and Greenville County.