COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed $18.5 million from the Legislature’s $7 billion spending plan for the coming year, including money for caregivers to the elderly.
Haley announced her 76 vetoes Thursday. That compares with 81 vetoes tallying $94 million last year, 81 vetoes worth $67.5 million in 2012, and 34 totaling $213 million in 2011 - her first year in office. Haley said the amount is far less this year because she and the Republican-led Legislature worked much better together.
“You will not see nearly as much vetoed in this because we didn’t have near as many problems with each other,” said Haley, who’s seeking re-election.
Vetoes include $2 million from the lieutenant governor’s Office on Aging for services that help seniors live independently in their own homes rather than in more expensive nursing homes, which taxpayers fund through Medicaid. Haley said there’s legitimacy in the program, but the agency is growing too fast. Even after her veto, she said, the office gets nearly $13 million next year from the state, compared with $4.5 million four years ago.
“I don’t disagree with the fact that it may save people money longer,” but that should be analyzed, she said.
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who stepped into the role in 2012, has warned lawmakers that a failure to prepare for South Carolina’s oncoming “gray tsunami” will cause a budget crisis and human tragedies. The state’s senior population is expected to double over the next 15 years, to nearly 2 million people age 60 and older.
McConnell is expected to resign next week to take his new job as president of the College of Charleston. Voters will choose his replacement in November. Haley applauded his advocacy but doesn’t “want to add on all this money when he’s not going to be here.” Instead, she said, she wants to work with the next lieutenant governor in developing his budget plan.
The veto for caregivers tied for the largest among the 76. Haley also vetoed $2 million that creates a grant program for youth sports. Haley said state government has no business using taxpayers’ money to fund soccer teams.
She also chastised legislators for giving themselves a pay raise.
The budget provides them an additional $1,000 monthly for in-district expenses, doubling the stipend that hasn’t changed since 1995 to $24,000 yearly. The provision also increases their pensions.
“I don’t fault legislators for wanting a pay raise,” said Haley, a three-term House member before becoming governor. “This is not the way to do it. This is not the time to do it.”
She suggested legislators ask voters whether they should get a raise.
For the first time, Haley struck nothing from an accompanying budget bill that designates money unused from this year’s rainy day fund. Haley signed off Wednesday on the $115 million in capital reserve spending.
Also unlike previous years, Haley did not wipe out funding for the Arts Commission. In 2012, her vetoes temporarily shut down it and another small agency until the Legislature returned to Columbia and overrode them. The Legislature completed its work so late then that the vetoes came out after the fiscal year started.
Haley said she didn’t eliminate the commission this year because it made changes that saved money, though that doesn’t correspond to her previous objections. In the past, she has said the arts are not a government function and should be fully funded by private donations.
She also did not strike a legislative compromise to censure two public colleges, despite disagreeing with it. The budget requires the College of Charleston to spend at least $52,000 and the University of South Carolina Upstate to spend $17,000 on teaching the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. Those amounts correspond with what the colleges say they spent on books dealing with homosexuality that were assigned for freshmen reading programs. The House wanted to cut that money from the colleges’ budgets.
“I don’t believe legislators should micromanage our boards. They elect board members, so if they want to beat up on them, go for it… but to go in there and micromanage books being read, I think that’s out of our purview,” Haley said. However, since legislators spent so much energy on the compromise, “we just didn’t want to interject ourselves in that.”
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