McMaster targets school buses, arts, parks money in first vetoes

McMaster targets school buses, arts, parks money in first vetoes

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster has vetoed 41 items in next year's state budget, slashing over $56 million in funds the General Assembly approved last Tuesday.

Of the items McMaster vetoed, he strikes through $17.5 million toward school bus leases and purchases by the Department of Education through the state's lottery. His office staff says this is because McMaster believes the lottery fund should only go toward scholarships for students.

Unless the General Assembly overrides this veto, that reduces some $29 million lawmakers allowed for buses to $11 million.

Not all are happy over this.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman criticized the veto, saying it put children at risk.

"Our school bus fleet incorporates more than 1,500 buses that are over 20 years old and not only are these old buses twice as expensive to operate and maintain, but they are also experiencing structural and mechanical issues," Spearman said. "I am deeply disappointed in the decision to veto this essential funding and remain committed to working with the General Assembly to override it and ensure South Carolina's students have a safe means of transportation to and from school."

So did Kershaw County Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

"You know, I know that a real priority especially after the school bus fires this year, was to purchase new school buses in South Carolina," Sheheen said. "People can see first-hand that this function of government, getting kids to school, is needed and is real and is worth the dollars that we're investing in."

Other items on the governor's veto list include a proviso that strips authority from the Commission on Higher Education to monitor public colleges and universities spending on non-academic projects and facilities. His staff says the CHE should not be debated within the state's budget, that the debate should take place outside of the fiscal plans for next year.

Some, like Rep. Bill Taylor, celebrated this veto.

"But what this is, if you remove the oversight of the universities and all of their building, the significant deep oversight, then it's going to be costly in the long run and taxpayers are going to pay for it and so is the tuition of students," Taylor said.

McMaster also vetoes a proviso on County Transportation Committees to ensure that the funds to be raised by the new gas tax hike will all go to improve roads, to things like paving projects.

McMaster's vetoes further include slashing funding for contraceptives for dependents under the state healthcare plan that would have cost the state $8 million. There are vetoes on $350,000 for statewide arts services, $6.175 million in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism revitalizations, $4 million in PRT parks infrastructure needs, and $1.45 million in Department of Public Safety law enforcement gr ants.

The governor's office classifies these vetoes into these categories: housekeeping, promoting sustainable health services, responsible use of taxpayer dollars, protecting natural capital, higher education accountability, good government, lottery scholarships, earmarks and pork, and transparency in budgeting.

The bulk of next year's budget is made up of four core items: K-12 education, health service annualizations, the pension system, and child protective services.

"There is a great deal of good in this budget. But there is also a great deal which, if enacted into law, would violate the trust and confidence our citizens have placed in us. I urge the men and women of the General Assembly to thoughtfully consider each of my vetoes and sustain them on behalf of the people of this great state," McMaster said in a statement.

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