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Gov. Sanford vetoes bill allowing USC-Sumter to offer 4-year degrees

Published: Mar. 17, 2004 at 4:09 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 18, 2004 at 1:51 PM EST
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(Columbia-AP) March 17, 2004 - Governor Mark Sanford on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would allow the state to borrow up to $500 million for college research and economic development projects.

He said he objected to the Life Sciences Bill largely because of a provision in it that would have allowed the University of South Carolina at Sumter offer four-year degrees. Sanford says lawmakers added too many unnecessary projects to the bill, which was passed by the House and Senate before it reached his desk.

The governor issued a statement, "This veto is all about protecting the taxpayers of South Carolina from politically-driven, pork barrel spending. More importantly, it's about changing the way things have always been done in state government. That's what the people elected me to do and that's exactly what I'm doing by vetoing this bill."

Sanford says South Carolinians elected him to change the government and that's what he's doing by vetoing the bill. House Speaker David Wilkins thinks there may be enough votes in the House to override the veto. The bill goes to the Senate first.

Two-thirds of each chamber would have to approve an override, though that's quite possible. The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the legislature, 35-5 in the Senate and 96-15 in the House.

The main goal of the bill was to provide research opportunities and economic development in biotechnology and related fields. Additions to the bill included an international convention center in Myrtle Beach and a new four-year culinary arts program for Trident Technical College.

It included $220 million in bond money for projects at the state's three research universities, investment incentives for pharmaceutical companies, creation of a venture capital fund and more money for tourism projects. Those provisions make a veto by Governor Sanford a potentially risky proposition politically.

The governor earlier said he favors USC-Sumter cutting expenses through more cooperation with a neighboring technical college.

The Sumter community lobbied hard for the change, arguing students should not have to travel 45 miles to the main campus in Columbia to get a degree. USC-Sumter serves about 1200 mostly nontraditional students. The average student is 28 and attends only part-time.

Opponents said the potential costs could be too high and are concerned about changing the mission of the schools. USC President Andrew Sorenson has also said he favors the Sumter school continue to offer only two-year degrees.

He also said USC-Sumter hasn't met a number of academic requirements to become a four-year school, including improving enrollment numbers and bringing in more outside money. And, in a letter to USC-Sumter Dean Leslie Carpenter Dr. Sorenson wrote the number of faculty-published research is, "grossly inadequate for a full-time faculty of 40," though some dispute that opinion.

updated 10:21am by Eva Pilgrim