COLUMBIA — Although she’s unlikely to be on the receiving end of a bipartisan verbal scalding that dominated the narrative around her first veto session, round two may not be much more fun for Gov. Nikki Haley.
S.C. lawmakers from both parties said Monday that most of Gov. Nikki Haley’s high-profile vetoes — including $10 million to contribute to 2 percent raises for teachers and eliminating state funding for two state agencies — are likely to be turned back.
“I feel like they probably will be overridden from my conversations with people,” said Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston. “I sense bipartisan support for those.”
GOP House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston said he expects “a lot” of the vetoes to be overridden.
The House will have the chance to make good on those expectations when members return to Columbia today to take up Haley’s 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million of the $23 billion state budget. Senators are back in town a day later.
Legislators — many steamed by what they described as Haley’s reneging on an agreement on funding for public broadcasting — sustained just nine of Haley’s 35 vetoes during her first year in office.
By comparison, the General Assembly sustained 18 of Gov. Mark Sanford’s 22 vetoes during his first year (in most of his years in office, Sanford’s vetoes fared considerably worse).
Haley has said her vetoes are all about setting priorities, avoiding the use of one-time money for recurring expenses and being responsible with taxpayer money.
Lawmakers said the governor handled the veto process better this year, never telling them to expect one thing and then doing another.
And most of the officials, Republicans and Democrats, said they can understand the philosophical underpinnings of Haley’s vetoes, even if they disagree with them.
“I think it’s more of what it should be. I think it’s more about the priorities of this state,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden.
Sheheen said this year’s veto session is less likely to be about personality conflicts.
But in the end, any goodwill toward Haley’s approach might not matter.
Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, said the level of civic involvement by groups and agencies hit by Haley’s veto pen is unmatched from what’s seen in his years in Columbia.
That’s meant thousands of emails, calls to lawmakers, letters, various petitions and press conferences all asking lawmakers to override Haley’s budget strikes.
The capital city has played host to much of the effort.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, advocates for nonprofit rape crisis centers and rape victims held a press conference calling on the General Assembly to restore Haley’s veto of state funding. She cut $454,000 for the centers, which include the tri-county area’s People Against Rape.
Hours later, artists and arts supporters staged a rally at the Statehouse in protest of Haley’s veto that stripped all funding for the S.C. Arts Commission.
The agency and the Charleston-based S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, which Haley also vetoed all money for, have been closed in recent days while waiting for the Legislature to rule.
Ford said that kind of pressure will affect how lawmakers handle Haley’s vetoes.
“The people that work at these agencies and departments have not just sat back,” he said.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.