COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed about $94 million from the state budget on Monday, but she retained money for a preschool program supported by her likely rival in next year's governor's race.
Haley chose on Tuesday to keep $26 million to expand full-day 4-year-old kindergarten in the $6.7 billion spending plan. Haley said she backs the goal of getting children in high poverty areas ready for school and is willing to see if this approach works.
“I'm not going to say that my way is the only right way to do it,” Haley said.
The program was backed by state Sen. Vincent Sheheen from Camden, who plans to run against Haley in a rematch of the 2010 governor's race.
Fellow Democrats made it the biggest issue as they tried to influence Haley's decisions during the six days she had to consider her vetoes. The money extends state-paid, full-day 4-year-old kindergarten to 17 poor school districts and increases access for needy children in 53 districts statewide.
“With this funding, South Carolina has taken a tremendous step toward providing at-risk children with a high-quality public education,” Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler said in a statement.
Haley issued a total of 81 vetoes on Tuesday, the same number she issued last year. The House meets on Wednesday and the Senate meets on Thursday to consider the vetoes. Last year, lawmakers overturned 48 of Haley's vetoes.
Haley said once again her goals with vetoes was targeting the use of money the state is getting one time for expenses that will continue into the future, as well as earmarks that were not requested by agencies. She knocked out $100,000 for repairs to the Barnwell County courthouse, $450,000 for three museums and $1 million for a visitor's center in Orangeburg.
The governor also vetoed $3 million requested by Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell to pay for vouchers so caregivers can hire someone to stay with elderly relatives for a day in case of family emergencies or other conflicts.
Haley said this year's budget has no recurring money for Medicaid, so chances are the program might not be funded next year.
Other vetoes included more than $2 million to health programs designed to combat various disorders like HIV prevention, colon cancer prevention and the organ donor registry. Haley said the diseases tug at everyone's heartstrings.
“How do we decide to distribute funds to fight colon cancer but not breast cancer? How do we choose these ailments and nonprofits over all others?” Haley wrote in her veto message.
Haley rejected $5 million to increase payments for nursing homes, saying the General Assembly shouldn't decide whether payments for medical needs should be increased and the money hasn't been allocated for the next budget.
The governor also went after predictable targets such as the South Carolina Arts Commission, which she has taken on for the past three years. Before she vetoed the agency's entire budget. This time she vetoed $417,000 in operating money for the commission while keeping more than $1 million in grant funding, saying the agency could tap that grant money to survive. But Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May said he can't spend money the Legislature allocated for one thing on another.
“We're tired of being targeted,” said May, who was rallying supporters of the arts to call lawmakers again. The agency has survived vetoes the last two years thanks to the Legislature.
Haley also went after a second traditional target, the Sea Grant Consortium, vetoing almost $90,000 for the director's salary.
On Monday, Haley went ahead and signed a bill guaranteeing that she and the Legislature accomplish one of her goals this year to put more money toward South Carolina bridges and roads. The governor backed lawmakers' plans to use a combination of new revenue, reallocated sales taxes on vehicles and borrowing to raise up to $1 billion for the Department of Transportation over the next 10 years.
Haley also praised lawmakers for adding $20 million to the budget to improve computer security after a hacker stole more than 6 million Social Security numbers and bank account information from South Carolina taxpayers and businesses. The money will also pay for free credit monitoring of more than 1.4 million people who signed up for the service.
The total proposed budget for 2013-14 is $22.8 billion, when adding in $7.6 billion in federal money and $8.4 billion in “other funds,” which includes agency fees, fines and grants. The fiscal year starts July 1.
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