Laughable defense of Bauer security
The legislative attempts to defend a $90,000 appropriation for a "security detail" for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer last week not only were half-hearted, one was literally laughable. It's not easy to defend the indefensible.
We're not aware of any serious threat against a lieutenant governor in this state in modern times, not even when agents from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division first were assigned to the office. That happened in 1978 simply because the state had its first female lieutenant governor and there was some concern about her driving to speaking engagements alone at night. Before long, the office had a virtually full-time protective force until Bob Peeler made its elimination a successful campaign issue during his race for the office in 1994
Now, over the strong objection of Gov. Mark Sanford, the security detail is back again, due to the persistence of the second-term lieutenant governor and the compliance of his colleagues. Indeed, someone went to a great deal of trouble to try to ensure that the $90,000 item in the lieutenant governor's budget was veto proof.
The governor thwarted an effort last year to quietly reinstate the security detail via additional funds in the SLED budget itself. This time, a budget item mandates that SLED provide the security and another puts the reimbursement funds in the lieutenant governor's office budget. Further, the $90,000 for security was part of a $112,173 line item that included funds for office supplies that a number of lawmakers reportedly were reluctant to eliminate.
A Greenville legislator, Rep. Fletcher Smith, did make a lame effort to defend the expenditure: "After 9/11, isn't it appropriate to give the lieutenant governor some security?" he asked.
But if that's the criteria, wouldn't it be more appropriate to give that protection to constitutional officers who actually have major full-time responsibilities, instead of the one with the part-time job of presiding over the state Senate?
Providing Mr. Bauer with a SLED driver seems, in fact, a bad joke in view of the problems he's had behind the wheel since he's been in office, including going more than 100 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper made a jesting reference to those difficulties before the House overrode the governor's veto: "I personally think it's a lot safer if the lieutenant governor had a security detail." Our report said his remarks got a quick laugh.
We don't find this $90,000 perk for the lieutenant governor even a little amusing. The veto override would better be described as appalling.