(Columbia) May 27, 2004 - Several South Carolina lawmakers were outraged Thursday when Governor Mark Sanford carried two piglets under his arms to the House chamber to protest fast action by representatives to override his budget vetoes.
Speaker David Wilkins of Greenville says the stunt is beneath the dignity of the governor's office. Wilkins says he's embarrassed for Sanford. Lawmakers adjourned shortly after Sanford showed up with the animals Thursday.
Sanford says it's a lighthearted way to prove his point about what he calls "pork" in the $5.5 billion spending plan, "I think it's important to have a sense of humor at the same time that you're making what I think is a serious point about at least limiting pork barrel spending long enough to pay off this unconstitutional deficit."
In a press release the governor says the pigs, one Durock pig and one Yorkshire pig, are nicknamed "Pork" and "Barrel." During his protest Thursday the Associated Press reports the Republican governor laughed at pig manure on his shoes and coat as he stood at the House doors.
Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) spoke of his disdain from the well of the Senate, "It was just a ill thought-out display that was to gain him some TV time at the expense of the decorum that we should display in this State House."
Sanford had his defenders, like Senator Jake Knotts (R-Lexington), "I don't think the governor meant to embarrass the state. I think he holds his office in high esteem. But to prove his point, he took the pigs back to the pen where the pork started."
The Senate sustained just six of those vetoes. The budget takes effect July 1st.
The Republican-controlled House took only about two hours Wednesday to vote to override all but one of Sanford's 106 budget vetoes with little debate. See his veto message>> A spokesman for the governor accused Republican leaders of trying to embarrass Sanford. Will Folks says it's completely disrespectful of the time and effort the governor put into this process, and it is not something the governor is going to lie down and forget about.
Minority Leader James Smith (D-Dist. 72) on Wednesday defended the House votes, "There are core essential services that affect the quality of life for many South Carolinians that were severely undermined by the governor's veto."
House Speaker Wilkins and House Ways and Means Chairman Bobby Harrell, both Republicans, defended their version of the budget against the governor's vetoes. That included changes in how the state might spend $90 million expected from tougher tax law enforcement. Wilkins urged the House to override the vetoes, saying it's about being fiscally responsible.
Folks says it's clearly an effort by leaders in the House like Harrell to embarrass the governor. Harrell said it was not personal. He says he respects the governor's vetoes and would hope that the governor would respect legislators' right to deal with vetoes.
Sanford said he questioned whether it was election-year politics driving lawmakers to rely too much on one-time money or funds that may not materialize. Harrell says the one-time money was needed to help agencies ease into possible cuts next year.
Sanford questioned plans to spend more than $90 million expected from tougher tax law enforcement. He says the state is unlikely to get more than $50 million from the effort.
Sanford also vetoed money to support a proposed college football game in Charleston, the Palmetto Bowl. The budget called for $380,000 toward the game and a 35,000 seat stadium. Sanford says he's concerned about a long term spending project in an annual budget bill.
The governor also freed up some $16 million from elsewhere in the spending plan to fully pay off a deficit the state has carried the past two years.
Other cuts included $5 million in funds to re-nourish Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort, a $250,000 memorial for veterans and $20 million of $90 million "Maybank" money, funds Revenue Director Burnie Maybank pledged to find in additional tax money if allowed to hire more auditors.
Sanford says Social Services and other agencies shouldn't depend on questionable tax revenue, "You gotta pay down the debt this year, 'cause it's a constitutional issue. Two, you have absolutely got to create some cushion in Maybank money, because if not you have the possibility of devastating an agency that has a direct impact on some of the neediest in South Carolina."
The General Assembly adjourns June 3rd.