The state Legislature wisely retained $2 million for home-based care for the elderly in the budget, overriding Gov. Nikki Haley's line-item budget veto. Last week's decision will mean that more of the state's elderly will be spared the painful necessity of leaving their homes just because they needed a bit of help that wasn't available.
The Legislature has learned an important lesson from one of its most respected alumni, former Sen. Glenn McConnell, who headed the state Office of Aging as lieutenant governor, and who conducted months of on-site research on the problems faced by the elderly in South Carolina.
He found that the overriding desire of the elderly is to remain in their own homes. And the additional funding for home-based and community care secured with the support of Mr. McConnell will enable thousands more to do so. The money means the state can help provide meals to more elderly residents, and help transport them to the doctor and to the senior citizen centers that Mr. McConnell says are needed throughout the state.
The funding also will provide savings to South Carolina taxpayers who otherwise would be on the hook for costly state-assisted Medicaid payments to nursing homes.
Mr. McConnell has repeatedly made the point that the state's share of nursing home care paid by Medicaid is $52,000 a year. That's about 40 times the cost of providing in-home care for elderly South Carolinians, he says.
Providing that assistance to elderly South Carolinians is the compassionate thing to do. And it's the fiscally responsible thing to do. It's a lesson the Legislature can't forget as the number of elderly S.C. residents continues to rise in the coming years.
The state Senate also did the right thing by killing the ill-advised $12,000 legislative pay hike that was initiated in that chamber. Although the House overrode Gov. Haley's veto, the Senate roundly sustained it. Indeed, as it became evident Wednesday night that the veto wouldn't be overridden, numerous senators quickly switched their votes, leaving only 10 in the end willing to support the pay increase, which was masquerading as a hike in the legislative expense account.
Legislators claimed they needed to double their expense checks, in part, because of the rising cost of driving over their wide-ranging districts. It's yet another reason for legislators to encourage compactness and contiguity the next time they take up redistricting for the General Assembly.
The cumulative cost of the pay hike would have been $2 million, one of the largest dollar totals among the governor's 76 vetoes.
The Senate also upheld the veto of a proviso to require air conditioning in many new school buses, after it was pointed out that the state hasn't done a good job of keeping up with school bus replacement. The Senate recognized that forgoing the expense of air conditioning could enable the state to add a few more new buses to its aging fleet. That's the kind of sound fiscal reasoning that ought to prevail in the Legislature.
Too bad that the Legislature didn't follow Gov. Haley's logic in her veto of three $150,000 lottery grants to private colleges - Southern Methodist College, Clinton Junior College and Coker College.
Noting that "the Education Lottery was not passed in order to subsidize private colleges," the governor said that sustaining her vetoes could provide $450,000 to cash-strapped S.C. State University - which is a state-supported school.
The Legislature also overrode most of the vetoes aimed at stemming state support of hometown projects beloved by their local legislative sponsors, but correctly described by fiscal conservatives as "pork."
Maybe struggling state taxpayers will take pleasure in their partial ownership of the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, the Medal of Honor Bowl, the S.C. Hall of Fame, Wallhalla Civic Auditorium renovations, the Greenville Children's Museum and a new roof on a building at the Future Farmers of America's summer camp at Cherry Grove.
But we doubt it.