Toal blasts Haley over veto

Toal

COLUMBIA — State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal blasted Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration Tuesday, saying the governor’s veto of $2.8 million for court technology services will lead to a major disruption of court systems across the state if not overridden by lawmakers.

Toal said Haley either didn’t understand the impact her veto would have or received bad advice.

“I’m very disappointed in the governor’s office,” Toal said. “This is obviously some incorrect work by her staff or incorrect information.”

Haley’s office said the S.C. Judicial Department, of which Toal is chief administrator, saw its budget grow dramatically this year and has enough flexibility to tap other lines of funding for information technology expenses.

“When it comes to budget vetoes, the governor, in her effort to be a responsible steward of tax dollars, always seems to disappoint some folks around Columbia, that comes with the territory,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said.

Godfrey said Haley’s veto lopped off 4 percent of the 15 percent budget increase lawmakers approved for the Judicial Department.

“So, with all due respect to the chief justice, whom the governor thinks a lot of, she has more than enough money to run our court system,” he said.

Legislators allocated $1.5 million to the Judicial Department for IT in the state spending plan that went into effect July 1. Another $1.3 million in other operating funds was included in the agency’s budget for the technology expenses.

Haley had the authority either to strike all the money or let the total stand.

Christian Soura, her deputy chief of staff, said the governor would have vetoed only the $1.5 million from the state general fund if she could have.

Toal said the Judicial Department and the 40 of 46 counties that use the state’s case management system to store and access records depend on the line of funding Haley axed to keep the system going.

Without it, courts could grind to a halt, Toal said.

When Haley struck the funding late last week, she said in her veto message that fees lawmakers authorized the Judicial Department to charge for use of a new statewide electronic filing system should cover the cost of the agency’s IT expenses.

Toal said there’s a big problem with that thinking — the new filing system won’t launch and won’t bring in any revenue for at least another 18 months.

“I think I could have cleared up the issue ... if I had I been asked about this,” she said.

Last month, Haley vetoed a measure authorizing the Judicial Department to charge electronic filing fees.

She said in that veto message that the agency shouldn’t have the authority to impose fees without oversight.

That veto was overridden by lawmakers, who return to Columbia next week to either do the same to the governor’s 81 budget vetoes or let them stand.

Toal said she already has had talks with legislators, whom she declined to name, about the importance of the IT money.

The chief justice said she is confident that they will override Haley’s veto of the funding.

Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.