- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley issued an executive order Thursday aimed at forcing South Carolina legislators to be more forthright about what they’re funding in the budget.

The Republican governor’s order addresses budget “pass-throughs,” which is when legislators send money to an agency without its request, to be spent on local projects.

For example, this year’s budget allocated $6.4 million to the Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism for unspecified “revitalizations.” That was among the majority of Haley’s line-item vetoes overridden by the Legislature last month. A spokeswoman said Thursday that the agency didn’t ask for the money.

House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White said it will go toward local recreation and tourism projects. He plans to work this fall on revitalizing a grants program the Legislature eliminated in 2008 amid the recession, following years of criticism from then-Gov. Mark Sanford.

Haley’s order requires the 16 Cabinet agencies that report to her to verify that “pass-through” projects benefit the public and fit an agency’s mission before funding them. Agencies must enter a contract with the recipient that includes a timeline for expected outcomes.

White contends state law already requires more information from recipients. A clause inserted in the budget since the grant program’s elimination requires, among other things, recipients to submit their budget and financial statements.

“We’ve already spoken to that point of accountability years ago,” said White, R-Anderson. “She just needs to make sure her folks are doing it.”

Haley’s order also requires her budget staff to issue an annual report publicly detailing each “hidden earmark.”

“It’s really starting to become a problem,” Haley said last month while announcing her budget vetoes. “A legislator will put money into one of my agencies’ budgets and then they will call my director and say, ‘I put this money in your budget and this is what I want it to go to.’”

She said last month she wants to “flush out the pass-throughs we’re seeing in my Cabinet.” Non-Cabinet agencies can’t be required to comply with an executive order.

Other overridden budget vetoes that Haley called “hidden earmarks” include $100,000 to the Department of Commerce labeled only “economic development.”

Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, said Thursday that he specifically requested the money for the rural Richland County town of Eastover, to help fix dilapidated buildings along its Main Street. The town is trying to attract businesses that will employ people, he said, so it’s appropriate that the money go through Commerce. Jackson said he has no problem with the money being specified in the budget.

“The town is in dire straits. They get very little help from the outside,” said Rep. Joe Neal, D-Hopkins, among House members who fought to keep the money in the budget. “When these little towns make an effort to develop themselves to the point they can attract industry, we should support those efforts.”


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