COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley was in New York City while the Legislature voted to reject most of her budget vetoes.
Republicans and Democrats said Tuesday that Haley’s presence may not have made a difference in overturning her vetoes, but Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, said Haley’s travel timing made her a hypocrite.
Stavrinakis said the governor tried to force the Legislature back in session to take up a package of government reform bills, saying that lawmakers had gone home before they finished their work for the year.
“If she is going to chastise legislators and try to cost the state tens of thousands to try to bring us back to Columbia then she needs to be there too,” he said.
Haley’s attempts to bring lawmakers back to Columbia to take up the government restructuring failed, under a ruling by the state Supreme Court. When the Legislature did reconvene late last month, they voted to throw out 27 of her 35 vetoes.
Charleston Rep. Jim Merrill, a Republican, said it was weird that she wasn’t in Columbia for the budget veto vetoes, but “she certainly was keeping her staff pretty busy.”
Merrill said legislators felt in strong support of some of the items Haley vetoed, such as tourism funding, and he doubts that she could have changed the outcome had she been in the Statehouse to try and persuade them directly.
“She sends a veto message. We read it. We discussed it,” Merrill said. Had Haley felt strongly enough about advocating for any specific item, he said he is sure she would have rearranged her schedule.
The governor did not immediately respond to questions about her decision to leave the state during part of the budget veto discussion. But not all legislators saw a problem with her choice to travel during the extended session that ended last week.
Haley’s press secretary Rob Godfrey said the governor left Columbia on Wednesday afternoon for Republican Governors Association events in New York City on Thursday, and then spent time with her husband and kids from Friday to Sunday.
Although the governor’s New York-based publishing house on Thursday announced the details of her book, “Can’t Is Not An Option: My Story,” Godfrey said Haley did not have any meetings on her book while she was in the city.
“As we’ve said, the differences we saw on the budget last week were about one thing and one thing only — the Legislature wanted to spend more tax dollars than the governor did. No more, no less,” Godfrey said in a statement.
The publisher, the Sentinel imprint of Penguin Group, referred questions on the meeting to Haley.
Her public schedule, released this afternoon, made no mention of her trip to New York, but lists on Thursday three RGA meetings, three calls for the group and a newspaper interview. The schedule does not list any events for Friday.