South Carolina Lawmakers Restore 147 of 163 Budget Cuts

Published July 1, 2005

South Carolina’s Republican governor tried to hold down state spending in May, vetoing 163 items totaling $96 million from the FY 2006 budget … but Republican lawmakers led a successful fight to override nearly every veto.

By the time the dust had settled, only 16 of the 163 vetoes were sustained, totaling $260,000 in cuts, according to Will Folks, press secretary to Gov. Mark Sanford. The budget came in at $5.8 billion.

Spending Up 9 Percent

“Less than one-third of 1 percent of the money the governor vetoed was taken out of the budget,” Folks said. “Our bottom line is simple: Government should never grow faster than taxpayers’ ability to pay for it. This budget grows by 9 percent when workers’ wages are growing about 3.5 percent. That doesn’t make good sense to us.”

“What these vetoes reflect is the principle of first things first,” Sanford said in announcing his vetoes. “It’s an attempt to find middle ground between where we are and where the General Assembly might be.”

‘Judgment Call’

Most lawmakers apparently disagreed, as each override required at least a two-thirds majority.

“I believe members made a judgment call on each veto and that each one stood or fell on its merits,” House Ways and Means Chairman Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) told the Sun News newspaper for a May 27 article. “I also believe that the House spoke very clearly that South Carolina’s priorities are education, economic development, law enforcement, and health care.”

Harrell and other lawmakers complained many of the vetoes fell on items that would improve the state’s economy, such as tourism spending. Sanford vetoed $1 million for tourism promotion in Europe, but lawmakers restored the spending.

Folks said the governor was frustrated by the overrides because he is a Republican and Republicans control the legislature.

But he may be getting used to the treatment. Last year Sanford vetoed 106 items, and state lawmakers overrode 105 of them.

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is managing editor of Budget & Tax News.