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Governor Shuts Down South Carolina Arts Commission

Here we go again…

On Friday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the South Carolina Arts Commission’s budget. This is the third year in a row for such a veto, two by Governor Haley and one by former Governor Sanford. It should be noted that prior to Governor Sanford’s veto, he systematically cut the Commission’s budget over the seven years leading up to the veto during his last year in office.

To complicate matters, the legislature failed to submit a budget to the Governor until after the start of the new fiscal year that began on July 1. The Commission, under the veto, has no budget and thus, has had to shut down pending the legislature voting to override the veto on July 17 (House) and 18 (Senate).

Governor Haley issued 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million for everything from a slight pay raise for teachers to a North Myrtle Beach museum, the preservation of African-American history sites in Charleston, a commuter mass transit service between Camden and Columbia, prescription drugs for AIDS patients, and a nonprofit that serves sexual assault victims.

But, it was only the Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium that were totally eliminated—a move that puts 38 state employee’s jobs in limbo.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is calling legislators back July 17 to consider overrides. He had planned to wait until mid-September, but Harrell said the two agencies’ predicament, as well as the money for teacher raises, should be addressed sooner. The Senate is coming back on July 18.

Governor Haley’s reasoning for her veto of the Arts Commission is that she would rather let taxpayers decide what charities they want to support. She said it’s not a government function.

The Arts Commission is a charity?!

I am continually amazed at the ignorance of some of our elected officials who, no matter what information/research you give them demonstrating how arts and culture greatly contribute to the economy, provide millions of jobs, and generate more money for the local, state, and federal tax receipts than are appropriated, prefer to ignore it and stick their proverbial heads in the sand.

I am hopeful that wiser heads prevail and the legislature will override the veto. Last year, the House voted by a margin of 105–8 to override the veto and the Senate 32–6. I watched some of the speeches that members of the House gave on the floor in support of the Arts Commission in which they showed better understanding that the arts are not charity, but are an economic engine. It was interesting that no legislature spoke in favor of the veto.

That said, as usual, Betty Plumb of the South Carolina Arts Alliance is in full battle mode and is working with the legislature to convince them to override the veto.

I would encourage you to follow the South Carolina Arts Alliance on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates and to take action. (You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter as well.)

As July 17 and 18 approach, watch for calls to action and when you get them, please TAKE action! If we all work as a team, we will be successful!

Here’s a news report from a local TV station covering the issue:

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