South Carolina teachers will get their overdue raises, the Arts Commission has re-opened its doors and rape crisis centers will get their full funding, as the Legislature overrode most of Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes this week. Still, 33 of her budget vetoes were sustained, demonstrating that the governor and the Legislature sometime operate on the same page.
Those vetoes were primarily what the governor called “pork,” and included hometown projects across the state. Altogether, they comprised about $1.7 million, a minuscule part of the state’s $6.8 billion budget.
The vetoes, and the fact that the Legislature sustained them, demonstrate the power of “pork” as a symbol of wasteful government spending — no matter how small the sum.
So don’t expect state revenue to be spread around in earmark fashion, even as revenue rises. Or even for worthy projects, such as the $200,000 sought for the preservation of Mitchelville, the nationally important historic site where freed slaves established their first self-governing community.
The Legislature even got sufficiently carried away to sustain a veto of $75,000 for security cameras in the underground garage serving its members.
Most surprising was the Senate’s vote to sustain the veto of a proviso that would have altered the bi-state agreement governing Jasper County port development.
The governor’s veto had been overridden overwhelmingly in the House, recalling its rejection of her ill-advised efforts on behalf of Georgia’s plans to dredge the Savannah River.
But the governor prevailed in the Senate on the final day, as proponents of the Jasper port argued that altering the decision could put that joint effort with Georgia at risk.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, authored the provision to require a majority of South Carolina members of the commission to support any allocation for the Georgia port project, for example, funding the disposal of dredged material at the Jasper site. At present, action requires only a majority of the full board, which includes an equal number of South Carolina and Georgia members.
“I don’t think this state should do anything to benefit” the Savannah deepening project, Sen. Grooms said. “I don’t think we should do anything to pay for it.”
Certainly that was the sentiment expressed by both the House and Senate during the session. Sen. Grooms described the Senate vote as “one of the most bizarre moments” he has experienced in the Legislature.
Also surprising was the fact that the governor did better this year than last, when the Legislature sustained only nine of her vetoes.
Hopefully, the animosity that defined much of the recent session can be eased sufficiently next year to advance needed reform measures such as the Department of Administration and changes at the state highway commission.
Those offer the opportunity for more than the occasional symbolic accord on “pork projects” between the Legislature and the governor.