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House leaders shut down budget cuts, then use procedure to thwart will of members

June 1, 2008

House leaders used complicated parliamentary procedure late Thursday to block the will of the House of Representatives and thwart cuts to state spending, according to the South Carolina Policy Council.

The House sustained three gubernatorial vetoes Thursday, and made it clear that momentum was on the side of cutting government spending. Rather than finish the veto debate, House leadership abruptly adjourned and ended the day early.

Later that afternoon, three members used an obscure procedural tactic to ensure they would get another chance to override the spending cuts. Motions to reconsider were slipped into the House Journal after members had already left for the day. The journal notes effectively prevented the House clerk from returning the vetoes to the governor.

The governor praised House members Thursday for sustaining the three vetoes that cut almost $600,000 in state spending, but today expressed disappointment that a few members would try to undo the clear will of the House to produce a more responsible budget.

“We believe that a vote is a vote and that the legislative process shouldn’t be about voting one way, getting your arm twisted over the weekend, then voting another way,” Governor Sanford said. “I’d again give credit to the House members who have stood with us so far, and we’re hopeful they’ll continue to do so.”

Many House members were not aware that the motions to reconsider had been added late in the day after the vote to adjourn took place. “My colleagues and I took a clear stand for the taxpayers on Thursday. The budget is a serious matter, and we gave it serious consideration. I do not anticipate any of my colleagues changing their votes on Tuesday,” said Representative Nikki Haley (R-Lexington), who voted to sustain all three of the governor’s vetoes. “I believe there is a strong tide against more spending increases, and I hope my colleagues will stand firm to fight them.”

Policy Council President Ashley Landess said that closed-door politics play a significant role in the massive growth in state spending.

“The budget has grown by more than 40 percent in just a few years, partly because special interest projects keep getting funded. The legislature must curb this growth or the economy will stagnate and jobs will be lost. Tax dollars are for core government functions, not private charities and festivals,” Landess said.

Those three vetoes eliminated close to $600,000 in special project funding from the $7 billion budget. The vetoes sustained were:

  • YMCA—Youth in Government: $18,445
  • Higher Education—SC Student Legislature: $25,000
  • University of Charleston—Hospitality, Tourism and Management Program: $545,000

After a majority of the House voted to sustain the veto of the University of Charleston program, House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Cooper (R-Anderson) abruptly moved to adjourn for the day. By a vote of 57 to 52 the House voted to quit early. House rules allow for motions to reconsider to be noted in the journal up to 24 hours after the vote.

Virginia M. Hall

External Affairs Director

South Carolina Policy Council

1323 Pendleton Street

Columbia, South Carolina 29201

Phone: (803) 779-5022 ext. 5

Fax: (803) 779-4953

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