South Carolina Legislature Named

Published August 1, 2004

The taxpayers’ advocacy organization Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named the South Carolina legislature “Porker of the Month” on June 8 for overriding almost every one of Governor Mark Sanford’s (R) 106 recent budget vetoes.

In his “veto press release” on May 26, Sanford had praised the legislature. “We outlined a number of specific goals in our executive budget, and many of those goals the General Assembly met,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes about the unprecedented level of involvement we’ve had in this process, and I think it speaks volumes about the willingness of many in the General Assembly to work with us in moving South Carolina several steps down the road toward fiscal discipline.”

Then the situation got a bit dirty.

After Sanford vetoed almost $36 million of a $5.5 billion fiscal 2005 budget, the Republican-controlled legislature breezed through 105 overrides in the House and 99 overrides in the Senate with little or no debate.

Governor Infuriates Legislators

Sanford responded by walking into the House chamber carrying two pigs, named “Pork” and “Barrel,” infuriating lawmakers. The mess made by the pigs, however, was nothing when compared to the chaos caused by the legislature’s overrides of the governor’s vetoes.

After the House kicked the budget back to Sanford, he vetoed another $16.2 million in appropriations, saying the surplus funds should be used to pay off the remaining portion of the state’s unconstitutional $155 million deficit carried over from fiscal 2002. Sanford also vetoed some appropriations that relied on $90 million in anticipated surplus funds that may not be collected.

Among the 106 items vetoed by Sanford were $5 million for Hunting Island Beach Renourishment and $500,000 for equipment for a Florence-Darlington Technical School building that has not been built or even funded. Also vetoed were $380,000 for a stadium expansion to accommodate a Palmetto Bowl Football Game, $250,000 for the Freedom Weekend Aloft balloon festival, $40,000 for an early retirement payout to a single state employee, and $26,000 for the Senior Citizens Sports Classic.

Bipartisan Firestorm from Legislature

The piggies provoked a bipartisan firestorm from many in the legislature. House Speaker David Wilkins (R) called Sanford’s act “insulting” and “childish,” saying it was “beneath the dignity of the governor.”

“It’s ironic that a harmless joke is called ‘insulting’ but reckless spending is considered respectable,” countered CAGW President Tom Schatz.

Sanford served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2000, earning “Taxpayer Superhero” status and the top ranking in Congress by CAGW. He campaigned for governor on a platform aimed at bringing his vision of efficient, cost-saving, growth-friendly government to his home state.

Sanford’s reform efforts, however, have often been thwarted by legislators who are protective of the status quo. “He deserves congratulations, not condemnation, for his bold demonstration of concern for South Carolina’s taxpayers,” said Schatz. “In fact, CAGW may have inspired his actions, as each year the group releases its annual Congressional Pig Book at a press conference complete with live pigs.

“For placing higher importance on pork projects than the state’s tax and deficit burdens, for reflexively overriding the governor’s budget vetoes, and for squealing when Gov. Sanford called them out with a light-hearted jab, CAGW names the South Carolina legislature its “Porker of the Month” for June 2004,” continued Schatz.

Tom Finnigan works in media relations for Citizens Against Government Waste. His email address is [email protected].