- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley struck $41 million worth of spending from the Legislature’s $7.5 billion budget and thanked legislators Thursday for not attempting to borrow money for college construction.

That’s partly why the veto total isn’t higher, she said: “They actually did what we said: ‘Use the money that’s there. Don’t go and borrow.’”

Last year, Haley’s opposition helped defeat proposals to borrow primarily for projects at universities and technical colleges. She publicly warned legislators in January not to try again.

On Thursday, she applauded the more than $100 million the budget sends to technical colleges for one-time spending and $30 million added to four-year colleges for recurring expenses. She called the lack of a college bond bill her “No. 1 win” this year.

But House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White said colleges, cut deeply amid the recession, needed far more to cover deferred maintenance and building needs. State borrowing is still needed unless lawmakers want colleges to continue passing on costs through increased tuition and fees, he said.

“At some point, we’re going to have to borrow to fix the institutions so they don’t borrow on the backs of our kids,” said White, R-Anderson.

Haley said the other reason she didn’t veto more is because “hidden earmarks” made it impossible.

Legislators are grouping unspecified spending together so she can’t strike single items with her line-item veto authority, she said.

“They roll things up to where we can’t get to it,” she said.

Haley’s 51 budget vetoes, issued minutes before her midnight Wednesday deadline, include $8.7 million of what she calls “old-fashioned pork,” such as $3 million for sports marketing and $100,000 for a Richland County swimming pool.

Legislators will return to Columbia next week to consider overriding them.

She struck several earmarks for museums, including $3 million toward a new Medal of Honor museum - currently on the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor - $1 million on the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, and $350,000 for the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. She also struck $50,000 for the USS Laffey in Charleston Harbor.

Those should be funded by “selling memberships, collecting admissions fees and soliciting philanthropic support,” not “earmarking state funds to choose one site over another,” Haley wrote in her veto message.

However, her pen did not touch $4 million for the planned International African-American Museum in Charleston.

“I think we’re a state that’s still healing. We’re coming on the anniversary,” Haley said, referencing the massacre of nine black parishioners at a historic church in Charleston. “I very much feel a responsibility to hold our state together and make sure we understand the significance of June 17 and understand we can only grow from that, so I thought that was important that that stay.”

Fifteen of her vetoes strike mandates, not money.

She vetoed a budget clause calling for an evaluation of moving the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum to Charleston.

Legislators opted for the study instead of spending anything to display the Confederate flag removed from Statehouse grounds and sent to the museum last summer following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church.

House members, who balked at a proposed $3.6 million price tag for the flag display and museum expansion, argued its current location in Columbia doesn’t attract enough visitors and needs to be more self-sufficient.

But Haley argued the study is a “veiled attempt to justify” combining the Relic Room and the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley and is “nothing more than a legislative pet project.”

Haley said when she worked with legislators in bringing down the Confederate flag, they talked about creating a “proper, respectful place for it.”

“Never in any of those conversations did they talk about moving it to Charleston,” she said.

She also dislikes the idea of a coyote bounty program meant to encourage hunters to kill the predators. Under the program, hunters who kill one of the 16 coyotes tagged by the Department of Natural Resources would receive a lifetime hunting license.

If DNR employees are in range to kill a coyote, they don’t need to take the time to catch, tag and release it, she said.

“It just didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” she said. “If you’re that close, go ahead and get rid of it.”

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