A lot of state officials claim they want to run government like a business.

Well, if they ran their businesses the same way they manage government, we'd never convene a quorum of the Legislature.

They'd all be stuck in bankruptcy court.

Here's a business tip for lawmakers: When a reputable organization with a proven track record offers the state $4 million in direct revenue - and a $60 million economic impact - for $200,000, take it.

Even the dock dogs know that much, and they don't have any better sense than to go swimming in February.

But for the fourth year in a row, Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed a modest appropriation for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. And last year, lawmakers let her foolish stroke of the veto pen stand.

You know, if they can't do any better than that this year, we should fire 'em in November and replace them with a bunch of accountants.

Because withholding money based on some pandering principle isn't good government - it's bad business.

Do your homework

By her own admission, Gov. Haley looks for new reasons to veto SEWE money every year.

Keep this up, governor, and they are going to make you return that tiger print they gave you a few years back.

As is often the case, the governor has done no homework. She says SEWE pays a management fee to a for-profit company. Not true. Haley also says last fiscal year SEWE increased its assets by a quarter-million bucks.

Wrong again.

These arguments are the political equivalent of a duck decoy, distracting the weak of mind.

Look at SEWE's reports to the IRS and you will see the popular festival is steadily losing money. That's because the nonprofit puts on the show, but (as the name implies) doesn't profit. The folks at SEWE aren't getting rich but, because of their efforts, a lot of other South Carolinians are.

Now Haley and her ilk will tell you that funding festivals is not a core function of government. Apparently, paving roads isn't either - because they don't do too much of that these days.

The core function of government is paying for itself. Lawmakers can do that either by taxing us to the hilt, or finding ways to generate revenue. Like SEWE.

It's funny, but just days after Haley issued her vetoes, she was out touting some new secret initiative to promote South Carolina restaurants. So is that a core function of government? Did the tea party sign off on that boondoggle?

Makes you think that maybe - just maybe - all that talk about the rest of the state hating Charleston isn't wrong.

Killing it slowly

Last year, the Legislature came up a few votes shy of overriding the governor's SEWE veto.

That included some "No" votes from Charleston lawmakers - not to name names or anything (we can always do that if they vote wrong again).

The year before that, SEWE money was approved but not appropriated because it was in the supplemental budget and there was no extra money.

Seems like a return of 20 times our investment would be a priority, but maybe not to these math whizzes.

Honestly, if the Legislature does not override Haley's veto this week, it will not kill the 32-year-old festival.

Not yet.

It will only throw SEWE into debt, force it to scale back. Slowly but surely, the quality will begin to erode until it is no longer one of the premier outdoor events in the country. Then maybe some of those 40,000 people who trudge to South Carolina in February will stop coming.

Then the hotels won't be packed, and the state will not see $3 million to $5 million in taxes roll in from Charleston hotels in a single week.

And lawmakers will scratch their heads, wonder where the money went, and then cut some core government functions.

Whatever those are.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.