Lawmakers will uphold most of Sanford’s vetoes

Governor threatened to veto entire budget again

It took me all afternoon, but I finally balanced my checkbook. Having done that, it is with a great sense of self-sacrifice that I know turn back to the state budget. Oh, my head!

Anyway, you’ll recall that I mentioned the e-mail exchange that a reader had had with House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, which to me raised questions. That reader later wrote to me again to relate a phone conversation that he’d had subsequently with Kenny. That caused me to send Kenny an e-mail asking him the following:

Kenny, I’ve got a question for my blog… is this correct? Did the governor threaten to veto the whole budget again? And did y’all promise to uphold his vetoes if he didn’t?
If so, why in the world didn’t you just tell him to veto the whole budget if that’s what he wanted to do, and then override him, just as you did before?
I’m just not following this…
— Brad

Kenny responded last night by calling me at home and taking a long time to explain to me what had happened. The two startling things I learned are reflected above in my headline and subhead, to repeat:

  • In all the wrestling back and forth over the budget at the end of the session, at one critical moment the governor threatened again to do the outrageous thing he did in 2006 — veto the entire budget. Rather than call that bluff, the GOP leadership (the group led in the House by Speaker Bobby Harrell, Ways & Means chair Dan Cooper and Kenny) made a deal to uphold most of his line-item vetoes. Why did they not just let him veto the whole budget and override him as they did in 2006? Because between the Democrats, who were voting as a bloc against every move the GOP leaders made, and the Republicans who could be counted on to vote with Sanford, the leaders didn’t think they COULD override a veto of the entire budget. And the leadership didn’t want to see the government shut down.
  • To avoid that, the leadership agreed to sustain most of the governor’s vetoes. I can’t give you numbers, because frankly I’m not sure of them, and Kenny wasn’t giving me precise numbers anyway. We’re talking about roughly $70 million in vetoes that will be sustained. That’s nowhere near the $414 million that the 107 vetoes total up to. But about half of that is a special pot of money created to deal with a special, stimulus-related, higher Medicaid match that Congress hasn’t yet extended, and the governor says they won’t and lawmakers think it will, and even if it doesn’t there’s enough money to last in the program through next February or April, and… well, it gets REALLY complicated. That disputed Medicaid match is isolated in a section of the budget called Part Four. Most of the vetoes lawmakers will be sweating over are in Part One. (Part Two is where you find provisos, and I never even bothered asking about Part Three, if there is a Part Three…)

And yes, the parts they’re likely to sustain include some of the things that folks are most upset about being cut, such as the State Museum. So does that mean the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, for instance, will shut down?

Kenny says no, because the Budget and Control Board has reserves that will keep the museum and other drastically cut programs

Kenny Bingham -- 2006 file photo/Brad Warthen

going. But there he is relying on the governor SAYING those reserves are available to bail out those programs. And the e-mail campaign against these vetoes that I’ve seen says the governor is wrong about that. I asked, how do you know the governor’s right? And he doesn’t know. I asked, what does Frank Fusco (head of the B&C Board) say? Kenny said he hadn’t talked to Frank yet. Presumably he will before the voting on Tuesday.

Bottom line, Kenny doesn’t know exactly what will happen Tuesday on all those vetoes, because there are a number of things that haven’t been worked out yet. And THAT’S what’s different about this situation. In the past, at this point he would have said with confidence that no one should worry; the vetoes would be overridden. That’s what we’ve seen year after year: Sanford makes his symbolic gesture, and the Legislature keeps the government running.

But this is the first time I’ve seen the GOP leadership this flummoxed over the Sanford vetoes. And as Kenny tells it a lot of it arises from the fact that the leaders just don’t think they have the votes. They blame the Democrats (no surprise there, huh?) for voting against them on a number of key budget votes. He said every single Democrat, with the occasional exception of Herb Kirsh, voted against them. Add to that the minority bloc of Republicans that can be relied upon to vote the Sanford way, and the leadership barely had the votes to pass a budget at all, much less come up with the two-thirds to override the governor.

As an example of the things they fought over… the leadership came up with a plan to raise court fees and license fees to help keep the courts running and pay for the next class of state troopers. The Sanford loyalists wouldn’t go for it, and the Democrats said Republicans should raise a general tax rather than paying for the added expenses with new fees.

I need to talk with somebody with the Democratic leadership this week to get their side of it, but Kenny’s account of the Democratic position sounds pretty credible: Basically, they’re saying that the Republicans got themselves into this mess with their tax cuts and such, and the Democrats aren’t inclined to help them out of it.

Anyway, what I got out of all this was this time, we might actually see some of the more headline grabbing consequences of the governor’s vetoes actually happen: shutting down the State Museum and the Arts Commission, for instance. Might not happen, but there’s a bigger probability this time than ever.

And in spite what I’ve been hearing about how the governor has tried to be more reasonable in dealing with lawmakers since his personal troubles began, it appears that he’s up to his old shenanigans, engaging in the same kind of ideological brinksmanship that we saw at the height of his arrogance.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens Tuesday. And those who care about the State Museum or ETV or the arts in SC have every reason to be in suspense.

21 thoughts on “Lawmakers will uphold most of Sanford’s vetoes

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    “it appears that he’s up to his old shenanigans, engaging in the same kind of ideological brinksmanship that we saw at the height of his arrogance.”

    Ironic, huh? They shoulda smoked his, uh, aspirin when they had the chance.

  2. moutons

    First of all, thank you for shedding some light on this situation!

    Correct me if I am wrong, but how does the Budget & Control board having extra money help the State Museum? The museum is an independent state agency and its money (I don’t think anyway) does not come from the Budget & Control board. In fact if you look at the email sent out by the museum (in one of your earlier posts) it states that museum is required to pay the Budget & Control board 1.8 million dollars in rent every year.

    HOWEVER, the SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, which is a seperate museum from the SC State Museum, IS under the Budget & Board. There seems to be confusion over the two institutions in the statement above?

  3. Michael P.

    Oh no, not the Arts Commission!!! Does that mean we won’t get to see the Jesus in a urine specimen jar?

    What is it going to take to understand that the state is in a financial crisis and we need to end support to “luxury items” in order to maintain “necessary items”.

  4. Matt Bohn

    Is this what we have to look forward to under a Haley administration? Unable to work with Republicans in the legislature. Committed to frugal ideals whatever the consequences. Shutting down the State Museum, libraries, and crippling public television. Giving your wife a picture of a bicycle for her birthday instead of the real thing. Is this the type of state that most South Carolinians would want to live in? Would anyone want to live in such a place? To save a few dollars on taxes?
    I expect the Democrats to make hay over all of this.

  5. Karen McLeod

    Maybe I don’t understand, but it sounds to me like each partisan group is so immersed in the bickering that they are willing to cut off SC’s nose to spite her face. They’d rather fight than switch…and any number of other cliches that mean that each group would rather watch disaster occur than work for the common good. If this is what we have for politician maybe this Greene guy would be an improvement.

  6. Doug Ross

    Seems to me that Sanford did exactly what he has always done. This is how the system works and reflects the desire of the voters of South Carolina who elected him twice.

    He is the catalyst who reveals the ugliness that is our legislature.

  7. Herbie

    It is so apparent that Sanford is not SC’s governor, but Wall Street/Club for Growth’s puppet. This is his last chance to ruin our state for ideological gains, and there he is.

  8. martin

    I hope that no legislator would have even a fleeting qualm about NOT honoring any agreemnt they made with this self serving, South Carolina hating, amoral governor.

    NOT honoring an agreement with Mark Sanford is the honorable thing to do.

    I do not believe the Democrats will just let the state fry to make a political point. I trust that Sen Sheheen will lead them into a new era of bipartisan cooperation for the good of the state.

  9. Doug Ross

    Sanford should have resigned the day his personal transgressions were revealed.

    When he didn’t, the legislature should have forced him to resign. But they didn’t. There was too much behind-the-scenes negotiating going on to make sure a) Andre Bauer didn’t get a trial run at being Governor and b) Glenn McConnell didn’t want to give up his powerful position in the State House by being forced to become Lt. Governor.

    The vetoes are a direct result of the decisions made by the leaders of the House and Senate. They left Sanford in office, they can live with the consequences of him acting like he always has.

  10. Tracie

    Thanks so much for covering this! Seriously.

    Folks who disagree w/Sanford can call the offices of key Republican House reps *today only* to request an override of vetoes on funding for the Arts Commission, State Museum, ETV, libraries, etc.

    High call volume from constituents and behind-the-scenes dealmaking are the only things that can help now — at least that’s what some of the arts higher-ups tell me.

  11. James Cross

    Just a plug for the State Archives, which sometimes seems to get lost in the shuffle when budget cuts arise. The Archives has suffered significant reductions in its budget the past few years and is perilously close to having a skeleton staff. While the cultural and educational benefits of the Archives may be obvious, as an archivist myself (not on the Archives staff) familiar with their programs, I would point out two other benefits. First, the Archives saves the state money. they are responsible for determining what records need to be kept and for how long. Not keeping records beyond the time they are needed means that you are not devoting space, staff, and money maintaining them. Second is the question of accountability. The records the Archives holds document what the state government is doing. Without them, it would be difficult to hold government officials accountable for their actions. And with many records going digital, it is even more important that there be someone who can ensure their preservation.

  12. moutons

    Here is some updated info via the State Museum’s facebook page on what would happen if Sanford’s veto stands.

    After paying the enormous rent obligation of $1.8 million, the museum would end up in the hole by $660,305. Full time staff would be reduced from 32 to 4, the museum would have to raise ticket prices 50%, delete all changing exhibits & programs, charge public school children admission (they receive free admission currently), put the 80,000 objects entrusted to the State via the State Museum at risk. More info here:

  13. Lauren Michalski

    “Oh no, not the Arts Commission!!! Does that mean we won’t get to see the Jesus in a urine specimen jar?”

    Unfortunately, those of us working very hard for very little to keep Columbia floating with some arts and culture are worried about a lot more than missing out on that. How about hundreds of artists and arts administrators out of jobs and forced to flee to a city where they can make a living and the government actually cares about the economic impact that the arts makes each year on the state? Frankly, I am hearing way too many people in my arts community talk about leaving Columbia, and it is frightening to think of what sort of effect this veto could have on our state. If we can’t even keep artists and arts workers here, how are we going to attract them so Columbia can become a thriving city? For more perspective, pick up Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida. ARTS=GROWTH in every sector!

  14. Kathryn Fenner

    “If we can’t even keep artists and arts workers here, how are we going to attract them so Columbia can become a thriving city? ”

    Yes, Lauren! Alas, so many of our political candidates are running against “Columbia” (when they aren’t running against Washington), that I fear for our wonderful future–we cannot even raise taxes to pay for it ourselves, thanks to the legislature!

  15. Matt B.

    Brad, I’m a board employee — I work for the Office of the Insurance Reserve Fund. In another post you have a copy of Frank Fusco’s press release — he is absolutely right. Most of these so called “available funds” are actually funds held up in various legal trusts and can not be used to pay the operational costs of other parts of the B&CB. For example, the IRF has millions in reserve, to pay insurance claims. Not only is our obligation to pay claims a fiduciary one, but statutory. For the Governor to insist that board programs operate off of our Reserve Fund is like telling BCBSSC to not worry about paying health insurance claims, instead you need to fund the operating budget of the cities of Columbia, Charleston and Greenville. It’s absurd, and more to the point unimaginable.

    Worst though, imagine what would happen if our reserves were depleted and a powerful hurricane hit the coast, or some other disaster? What would folks do if they couldn’t get basic services such as fire, rescue and police protection because those entities insurance company couldn’t pay to repair the infrastructure.

    So if legislators and the “tea party activist” goading them wish to back this malarkey, let’s get one thing straight: it’s upon their heads when things come screeching to a halt and they can’t get even the basic services that people need… and they deserve it.

  16. Michael P.

    “forced to flee”… now that’s funny. Are the art Gestapo after them? I’m sure Columbia will become a thriving city (some day), art or no art.

  17. Kathryn Fenner

    Refresh my recollection: isn’t this what proved to be the Waterloo for the Contract with/on America crowd and Newt Gingrich? Government shutdown?

    Name one thriving city that does not have publicly funded arts and museums.

  18. Maynard T. Wayman

    Here’s an analogy that will help us to understand this “deal”: If someone is holding a gun to your head, you will probably agree to just about anything, right? So what happens if the gunman is now disarmed, or has no bullets, or whatever? Do you still follow through and do what you agreed to do under threat of having your brains blown out? Of course not! So, Sanford played his “total veto” card (gun to the head), the House Republicans agreed, and now Sanford has no more ammo. Do the House Republicans still have to follow through on the deal? Of course not! They have to decide what best serves the people who elected them, and they don’t need to worry about anything else.

  19. Lauren Michalski

    Kathryn, thank you. I rarely meet an intelligent person who does not agree that the arts create smarter children and have a tremendous economic impact all around.

    For real, Art Gestapo? I don’t even want to comment anymore.

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