S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, July 1, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0701.vetoes.htm

Policy vetoes go over better than ideological ones
By Andy Brack, Publisher

JULY 1, 2007 - - So the House and Senate again smacked down scores of budget vetoes from Gov. Mark Sanford, again proving the relative weakness of South Carolina's governor and this governor in particular.

Or did something else happen as legislators dealt with Sanford's 243 vetoes to cut $167 million from the state's first budget to reach more than $7 billion?

In 2004, House lawmakers overrode 105 of 106 vetoes by Sanford in just 90 minutes. The following year, they allowed 16 of 163 vetoes to survive, which cut only $5.8 million from a $5.6 billion budget. In 2006, Sanford vetoed the entire state budget, which lawmakers promptly overrode.

This year's vetoes follow a pattern that began early in Sanford's term. They're mostly ideological in that Sanford, notoriously frugal, doesn't seem to want to spend money on anything much new. Among the things he vetoed, which later were overridden:

  • " $21 million to grow a children's health insurance plan to cover more of the state's poor children;

  • House members voted to keep money in the budget for a security detail for the lieutenant governor (votes to override are in green).

    $90,000 in spending for a lieutenant governor's security detail - which prompted House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, to joke that many drivers in the state would be safer if Lt. Gov. Andre "Leadfoot" Bauer had a driver;

  • $4.5 million for a high-speed, dedicated Internet research network for research universities;

  • $5 million for beach renourishment;

  • $90 million in competitive grants for dozens of projects for local communities, such as deferred maintenance, university studies, air quality improvement, mass transit, economic development and others that have gone unfunded for years. This year, with $1.5 billion in new money available, the state budget reflected a lot of new spending to meet needs that went unfunded for years. As noted in previous writings, even though the state spent more money this year, it suffered billions in lost revenues over the last few years, which resulted in a dramatic loss of services, particularly to the needy.

But unlike years past when lawmakers sped through dealing with Sanford's vetoes, this year's special session on vetoes took two days of debate - in part because of the sheer number of vetoes, but also because lawmakers had good, political discussions on a number of issues.

For example, House lawmakers agreed with the governor's veto of an "open enrollment" public school choice plan. Members fell 14 votes short (60-52) of the two-thirds majority they needed to override the veto. The measure failed to become law because some said it might lead to resegregation of schools; others thought it would hurt growing districts; and still others prefer a controversial private voucher plan.


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Lawmakers also had good discussions on other issues, such as Sunday sales, or blue laws. The point of all of this is that this year's special session on vetoes found lawmakers taking more time and, despite 243 vetoes, Sanford also seemed to target his budget wrath better.

That doesn't mean the governor was always consistent. For example, he vetoed $500,000 in funding for a non-profit called the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families because "we do not believe that state government should be in the business of picking winners and losers by funding one nonprofit over another (page 20 of the 54-page budget veto document).

Yet he allowed $800,000 in funding to remain in the budget for Heritage Community Services, a nonprofit aligned with a friend, Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Mount Pleasant. Sanford also didn't veto $140,000 for the S.C. Campaign against Teen Pregnancy, which counts Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, on its board.

Perhaps the biggest lesson of the 2007 session for the governor should be that his veto messages are taken more seriously if he highlights serious public policy disagreements and stops with all of the ideological cuts that haven't gone anywhere for the last five years.

You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of SC Statehouse Report, at brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

lighter side
Mystery meat

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

6/26: Being inconsistent on sprinklers, guns

To Statehouse Report:

You [Brack] are the guy who said he doesn't think people should be able to do the very SAME thing when faced with the need to protect themselves against violent crimes by using a firearm. We're supposed to "dial 911 and wait for the cops to arrive," remember? Aren't you being a tad inconsistent here?

It's odd how you can see quite clearly about the dangers of fire one moment, but you are hopelessly myopic the about firearms the next moment. The two topics and their subsequent remedies are so parallel it is pitiful. They are both serious dangers that can be prepared for and even possibly averted entirely by employing the proper tools and preparation on the part of responsible citizens.

-- Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: There's no inconsistency. Removing handguns from schools [Commentary, 5/13] or installing sprinklers in buildings [Commentary,6/24] will have the same effect: saving lives.

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NEWS: Coal debate warms in SC
  • LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Wrapping it up
  • RADAR SCREEN: Be on the lookout for education ideas
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: To resign or not resign
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Debate over coal warms
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

JUNE 29, 2007 -- Suddenly, a fuel source derided for so long for its ecological and environmental horrors has seemingly become America's best friend. Coal, the other white meat. Coal, it's what's for dinner. Coal, we do power generation right.

And now, Santee Cooper, which provides power to 20 electricity cooperatives and all 46 counties across the state, is beginning a permitting process to build a 600-megawatt coal-burning plant in Florence County to meet the state's growing energy needs.

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AVAILABLE NOW: Furman University's Don Gordon has great things to say about Andy Brack's new book of commentaries, "Bugging the Palmettos." Click here to learn more and buy the book -- only $15.00!

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