The Battle over Vetoes

SORRY, BUT TAXPAYERS LOST THE REAL BATTLE MONTHS AGO

Yesterday the South Carolina House overrode the majority of Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget vetoes. The vetoes themselves were minimal – at $57.1 million, they amounted to less than one quarter of one percent of the total budget – but evidently they weren’t minimal enough for lawmakers.

When the smoke cleared in the House, that $57.1 million was reduced to roughly $3 or $4 million. Or to put it another way: After examining a $23.6 billion budget – by far the largest budget in state history and $1 billion larger than last year’s – House members concluded that, for the sake of taxpayers, that budget could be reduced by .015 percent.

A few representative examples from a much longer list:

•  The House overrode a veto diverting $10 million from the National Mortgage Settlement (intended to help victims of mortgage fraud) to the Deal Closing Fund – the state’s largest pot of corporate welfare money. Of course, the Deal Closing Fund was already set to receive a $5 million increase. Apparently that wasn’t enough.

•  The House voted to save the Arts Commission ($1.9 million for the Commission itself, $500,000 in grants). Evidently a large majority of South Carolina state lawmakers feel that strongly about the state’s obligation to fund the arts.

•  Gov. Haley vetoed $10 million for teacher pay raises. Why? Because that $10 million won’t be available next year. If lawmakers really thought teachers deserved a pay raise, why could they budget for it with recurring money?

•  The governor also vetoed an additional $3 million for the Rural Infrastructure Authority. Why? Because the Authority doesn’t even exist yet – and already has $39 million. Make that $42 million.

•  A great many vetoes for smaller appropriations were overridden – $200,000 for marketing and advertising for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, $1.25 million for a new administration building at the Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities,

In total, the House overrode 51 vetoes and sustained 30.

Today the Senate will take up the remaining 51. But while we hope the Senate will choose to reduce their $23 billion budget by a few million dollars, let’s face it: No matter what happens, taxpayers won’t get any “wins” today. The argument is over a tiny fraction of what it takes to run a gargantuan, ever-expanding empire of state agencies and programs. Whether it takes $23.6 billion or $23.4 billion to run the empire, the only “winners” today are the politicians who get to pretend they stood up for the taxpayer.

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Category: Budget Watch 2012, Commentary · Tags: