House mostly sustaining Sanford's budget vetoes

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — South Carolina legislators are debating 107 vetoes to the state budget that could nearly shut down some agencies and slash programs.

The House began debating Gov. Mark Sanford's vetoes Wednesday. The fiscal crisis and voter backlash on spending this election year could hand Sanford his most successful year yet on vetoes. This is the term-limited governor's last chance to influence state spending.

The nearly $5 billion state budget that takes effect July 1 is $2 billion less than it was two years ago.

Overriding Sanford's vetoes require two-thirds approval by lawmakers.

So far many massive cuts are being sustained, meaning the vetoes are sticking and state agencies and programs are being cut. Among them, lots of education cuts in teacher training at both USC and SC State, as well as for testing rivers and nanotechnology.

Legislators also overrode vetoes to cut $4 million from the state's technical colleges. Some lawmakers said it was madness to eliminate money to run the schools that businesses rely on and that are vital as jobless workers seek training.

Childhood immunizations, technical colleges, and educational television have so far survived the budget ax as legislators consider the 107 vetoes.

The House saved $4.5 million Sanford wanted cut from the Department of Health and Environmental Control that would have decimated the agency's operations. It also saved the agency $3 million that could have ended various health programs, including immunizations, restaurant inspections, and AIDS drug assistance.

Maybe the biggest victory for Sanford was a vote to sustain his veto of $25 million in spending for the state Budget and Control Board. That will eliminate 180 jobs and shut down the office that analyzes the state budget.

Keep in mind, the governor handed back more than 100 vetoes to the General Assembly's budget. All of this to cut the budget by millions of dollars to bring it into line with current revenue flow and projections. It's a battle over the state's bank account.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control did not escape unscathed when the house upheld the governor's veto of almost $7.5 million for health care services.

Lawmakers have trimmed out, by one rough estimate, about $40 million in spending. But for the most part, they have rejected the governor's cuts.

The budget passed the House two weeks ago on a 64-54 party-line vote. Democrats complained then it failed to meet basic health and education needs. But House Minority Leader Harry Ott says Democrats will vote to override the vetoes.

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