COLUMBIA — Gov. Mark Sanford, who is famously frugal, said Wednesday he held back when taking his veto pen to the Legislature's $7.4 billion budget.
Sanford's top 5
Most expensive Charleston-area projects Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed Wednesday:1. $9.45 million for the Medical University of South Carolina, including the construction of the College of Dental Medicine, establishment of its connection to the S.C. Light Rail and equipment for the Charleston Breast Center.2. $3.6 million for the College of Charleston, including money for its marine genomic program, global trade center, economic partnership initiative and effective teaching and learning program.3. $2.5 million for the South Carolina National Guard Readiness Center at The Citadel.4. $500,000 for the Morris Island Lighthouse restoration.5. $300,000 for the Charleston Transition Connection, a proposed post-secondary education program for adults with intellectual disabilities.
Instead of rejecting the entire budget like he did last year, Sanford issued 243 line-item vetoes worth $167 million. That includes $17.8 million, or 67 percent, of the $26.3 million targeted toward Charleston-area projects and higher education spending, according to a preliminary review.
Among the largest items Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed:--$21.3 million to expand Medicaid programs for children.--$17.3 million for Parks, Recreation and Tourism projects.--$15 million for State Farmers Market construction.--$9 million for competitive grants often used to help local governments put on festivals.--$5 million for beach renourishment.
"If I was self-centered, I would think he's picking on me," said Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston. "But when I look at the other vetoes, I know he's picking on everyone."
Ford said he won't hesitate when the Legislature returns today to form coalitions with other lawmakers to get the two-thirds support needed in the House and Senate to override the vetoes. Many of the local projects Sanford vetoed are in Ford's district, he said. If lawmakers from other areas need Ford's vote to help them override vetoes of projects for their districts, Ford said he would give it to them as long as they return the favor.
"We're in contact with our people every day. We know what the needs are," Ford said. "This governor we have simply don't have no feelings for the citizens."
Not true, Sanford said. He said he used the vetoes to bring the state's spending down to a sustainable level.
Like in the past, Sanford warned that unsustainable spending can lead to mid-year budget cuts that don't discriminate and hit programs that do the best job serving the neediest. He did, however, give credit to the House leadership for $221 million in tax cuts that will eliminate the grocery sales tax in November and cut
come taxes by about $67 per person a year.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the governor's vetoes would be more effective if they were better targeted. Some don't make sense, he said, such as vetoing a measure that would increase low-income children's access to health care.
"With a record amount of tax relief in this budget, with a record amount of money to deal with unfunded liabilities in this budget, with workers' comp reform and DOT reform passed, we are quite surprised by the number of vetoes the governor announced," Harrell said in a statement.
Sanford said his veto pen is "very clumsy" but it's the only tool he has available. In his 54-page veto message, Sanford addressed his reasoning for vetoing the additional spending for children's health care. He wrote that Medicaid accounts for $1 out of every $5 in the state budget, and the number is projected to grow.
Hardest hit in the Charleston area were the College of Charleston, The Citadel and the Medical University of South Carolina. Sanford cautioned that the projects don't address the core mission of educating students.
Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, said the higher-ed spending was carefully deliberated by legislators and he's hopeful the vetoes will be overridden.
The governor came 34 vetoes short of tying the purported veto record. The late Gov. Carroll Campbell used his pen to veto 277 line items in a single budget.
Reach Yvonne M. Wenger at email@example.com or 803-799-9051.