COLUMBIA - House lawmakers did an about-face Tuesday, choosing to give themselves a pay raise just moments after they had rejected the idea.
Gov. Nikki Haley immediately criticized the move on social media.
"Unreal. The House just reconsidered & voted themselves a pay raise," Haley posted on Twitter moments after the vote. "Thank those who voted 'N' and stood with us."
The $12,000 pay raise was one of 76 vetoes Gov. Haley had placed on the 2014-2015 state budget, most of which were overridden by the Republican-led S.C. House of Representatives.
Haley had wanted the pay increase to go to state voters for approval by way of the ballot box. Rep. Jim Merrill R-Charleston, took to the floor to explain the effects of the pay raise, answering questions. He did not recommend to override or sustain the veto when it went up for a vote. He also said that the districts lawmakers represent are more populous and more pay would go a long way toward making the job of serving more desirable and competitive. Lawmakers' current yearly salary is $10,400.
Though the House initially voted on sustaining Haley's veto, members later returned to the measure and 73 members voted in favor of overriding it.
Most of the expenditures that benefitted Charleston also survived Haley's cuts, including $200,000 for the Southeastern Wildlife Expo; $100,000 to the nonprofit Palmetto Project to enroll school-aged children in Medicaid; and $100,000 for the next version of the Medal of Honor Bowl, a college post-season all-star game played at The Citadel.
Other notable survivors of the veto debate included $150,000 for three annual Black Expos, including one in the Lowcountry; $300,000 for the Lowcountry Graduate Center in North Charleston; and $150,000 for unfinished sections of the 500-mile Palmetto Trail from the coast to the mountains.
One Charleston-area item that did not survive Tuesday was $100,000 toward the creation of a tourism trail dedicated to Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion.
Haley's vetoes had totaled about $18 million in spending out of the $7 billion budget that is scheduled to take effect July 1. The items will next be taken up by the state Senate Wednesday. A two-thirds vote by the House and Senate is needed to override governor vetoes.
Early into the debate Tuesday, it appeared that most of the spending requests that House members wanted were destined to survive. At one point Merrill even asked the members not to start a veto war by attacking some of the spending projects that lawmakers from other geographic parts of the state wanted.
"And that goes for all regions of the state," he said.
In terms of the Charleston-designated spending, Haley had objected to several on grounds that taxpayer money for a football games or for events that were capable of sustaining themselves, such as the Wildlife Expo, were not a good use for public dollars.
The Medal of Honor Bowl money came as part of a three-game package totaling $300,000; it also supported North-South and the Shrine Bowl high school stars games.
Another Charleston-area measure that survived the veto process Tuesday was an effort that would provide about $275,000 for an anti-crime initiative in North Charleston. State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said he hoped the money will make an impact in the city, if it survives the Senate.
"This allows us to really fund some programs that go in a meaningful way to help reduce crime," he said. "What I'm talking about is not necessarily more police officers. But you have a number of community policing projects in local neighborhoods and they need things like additional lighting (and) emergency boxes that seniors can press if they are in danger. And all these things can help reduce crime because you'll have law enforcement more accessible."
Also overridden by the House was Haley's cut of $2 million meant for the lieutenant governor's office to increase funding for Home and Community Based Services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551
Editor's note: Earlier published versions of this story contained an error about Rep. Jim Merrill's position on raises for lawmakers. The story has been corrected.
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