South Carolina lawmakers on Tuesday restored $4 million in funding for projects in Charleston and Mount Pleasant, overriding budget vetoes by Gov. Nikki Haley.
The overrides restored $1 million for the South Carolina Aquarium, $1 million for the planned National Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point and $1.5 million for the Fireproof Building designed by Robert Mills, the longtime home of the South Carolina Historical Society, officials said.
Legislators also restored $250,000 for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition and $250,000 for the College of Building Arts, officials said.
“It was a great day for Charleston. There was an overwhelming vote in favor of the money for Charleston,” said state Rep. Chip Limehouse. State Sen. Larry Grooms’s office confirmed the override vote in the Senate. The overrides required a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.
The $1 million for the aquarium will be used for repair and maintenance of the long-standing Saltmarsh Aviary and Mountain Forest exhibits, officials said.
The $1.5 million for the Fireproof Building is to put a museum on the ground floor that will be a tribute to Robert Mills.
“We’re excited,” said Faye Jensen, Historical Society executive director.
The restored $250,000 in funding for the Wildlife Expo will be used for marketing, promotion and advertising. The event has a budget of about $2.5 million, said Jimmy Huggins, the festival president and CEO.
“It means a lot,” Huggins said. “We operate on a very small margin every year. It doesn’t take much to knock us down,” he said.
Huggins said the festival is a big generator of state sales tax, food and beverage tax and accommodations tax revenues.
The $1 million in restored funding for the National Medal of Honor Museum is for the planning and design stages of a $90 million project at Patriots Point, Limehouse said.
The General Assembly also restored about $250,000 in funding for the School of the Building Arts.
The state budget is roughly $7 billion. Overall, Haley vetoed more than 80 expenditures totaling $30 million in the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, but left large appropriations for the Lowcountry intact.
Last week, Haley included the money meant for the National Medal of Honor Museum as among 18 “pork-barrel projects” that represent “some of the most irresponsible political deal-making that South Carolina has to offer.”
She also suggested the aquarium seek local and philanthropic support in a year when the Legislature gave “very little capital support” to state parks.
She was harsher with the cash slated for the wildlife expo, saying that every year she vetoes it, and yet it keeps popping up in the budget. She chastised lawmakers for “sanitizing” who the money was for through vague wording of the item in the budget. It is presented as money for the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.