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nikki haley

nikki haley

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – a Tea Party diva who campaigned on the notion of limiting government – approved a whopping 99.03 percent of the largest budget in the history of the Palmetto state on Tuesday.

In the process, she lent her seal of approval to more than $1 billion in new spending over and above last year’s record-setting budget.

Haley issued a handful of vetoes – 35 to be precise – but those cuts amounted to less than 1 percent of the total $22.1 billion budget.

“She punted on curbing growth until ‘next year,'” one fiscal conservative lawmaker told FITS. “Shameful.”

Meanwhile Haley’s allies at the S.C. Policy Council noted that “Medicaid’s ever-ballooning budget went untouched,” spending increases that come on top of two previous $100 million bailouts approved by Haley within the last four months (here and here).

Also, while Haley left massive spending increases intact – she vetoed a proviso that would enable the State Treasurer’s Office to root out fraud, waste and duplication in government.

S.C. State House

All told, Haley issued $213 million worth of vetoes – including low-hanging fruit like the S.C. Arts Commission, the state Conservation Bank and S.C. Educational Television (SCETV). In fact, Haley appears to have disliked one SCETV expense so much that she vetoed it twice.

Haley also vetoed a proviso permitting the S.C. Election Commission to run the state’s “First in the South” presidential primary – despite the fact that she previously voted on multiple occasions to saddle taxpayers with this expense.

“We have a great opportunity to show the people of South Carolina that we are committed to being good stewards of their dollars,” Haley said in her veto message.

Really? Then where’s the commitment?

Haley fell short of expectations on numerous fronts. Last year, former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford issued 107 vetoes totaling more than $361 million. Fiscal conservative leaders in the General Assembly – led by S.C. Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) – had hoped that Haley would propose cuts of anywhere between $400-$500 million.

S.C. lawmakers will have an opportunity beginning on Wednesday to either sustain or override Haley’s vetoes. Seeing as it takes a two-thirds majority of both chambers to override a veto, we suspect that many of Haley’s modest cuts will take effect – as they should.

Unfortunately, this process highlights two serious problems. First, there’s the limited extent to which Haley chose to use her veto pen to cut spending, More importantly, S.C. taxpayers won’t see a dime of actual “savings” no matter how many of Haley’s vetoes are upheld.

That’s because our state lacks a taxpayer rebate fund – a mechanism that would allow surplus revenues and other savings to flow back to the people who actually sent that money to Columbia in the first place.

HALEY GENERAL FUND VETO LETTER (.pdf)
HALEY RESERVE FUND VETO LETTER (.pdf)

Pic: Travis Bell Photography

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