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'Common sense' led to veto overrides, local lawmakers say

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Nikki Haley official portrait horizontal crop for web

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Area lawmakers were among the majority last week in voting to override most of Gov. Nikki Haley's vetoes.

Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, said the overrides "reflected the views of both chambers in totality.

"Those issues were vetted on the floors and we thought they were important. The four or five vetoes that were sustained were not significant.

"It was telling that the Republican leadership is not on the same page with the governor. It would seem to show she is out of step with many South Carolinians."

Fanning the fires to overturn was the feeling that Haley broke a deal to fund South Carolina Educational Television, cutting $5.9 million from its $9.6 million budget.

Lawmakers also took issue with Haley's approach on education spending. State Sen. John Land, D-Manning, said the legislature wanted to increase per-pupil spending from $1,600 to around $1,800 or $1,900. He said Haley's message was mixed.

"She vetoed $110 million in the Capital Reserve Fund bill that had 60 to 70 needed maintenance projects for higher education without adequate explanation," Land said. "This was excess revenue we didn't get until late, and she said we didn't need to spend it on education.

"There was even a section where money was allocated for the Department of Commerce to recruit jobs. It didn't make any sense at all."

The General Assembly reinstated $76 million for K-12 education spending, including $12.4 million to purchase new school buses. It also overrode Haley's veto of the state Arts Commission's $1.9 million budget.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg said Haley's request that lawmakers use Capital Reserve Fund cash for future budget contingencies is disingenuous.

"To Gov. Haley I would say, ‘Wake up and smell the coffee, the storm is here,'" Cobb-Hunter said. "We are way beyond a rainy day in South Carolina.

"Until the governor is willing to exert the leadership required to deal with the tax mess, there is no real reason for her to lecture the General Assembly on a rainy day fund."

Local Democrats also worked across the aisle with Republicans to ensure the state's participation in the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

House Minority Leader Harry Ott, D-St. Matthews, was one of the few lawmakers to vote against a measure to providing $680,000 to the primary.

"We had talked about it in the caucus and we didn't make it a caucus issue," Ott said. "I was happy working with the Republicans in getting veto overrides on the important things like the certificate of need funding and others that needed overriding."

The legislature restored more than $400,000 to operate the state Department of Health and Environmental Control's CON program. The program reviews health care providers' plans for new services to prevent service duplication and to contain costs.

State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, laid much of the blame on Republicans and Haley for growing government and increasing spending.

"She vetoed measures that would improve public education and we can't stand for that in South Carolina," Sellers said. "She is out of touch with the people.

"We need the Arts Commission and ETV. In this I'm glad to see that common sense prevailed."

Lawmakers will return July 26 and try to reach a compromise on congressional redistricting plans.

Contact the writer: psarata@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5540.

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