Gov. Mark Sanford made the following statement after the South Carolina House of Representatives sustained 51 of 107 budget vetoes, including the entire section of the budget depending on now doubtful Medicaid money from Washington D.C. The money saved from these sustained vetoes can now be used to soften the blow from a looming billion dollar budget shortfall next year.
"I said last week that in this budget crisis there lies an opportunity -- a chance to reorder our state's budget priorities and restructure government. With today's veto votes now behind us, several things are clear.
"First, today represents an unprecedented level of sustained budget vetoes and an encouraging commitment by many lawmakers to a more fiscally responsible path for our state. All told, 51 of 107 (48 percent) budget vetoes were sustained for a total of roughly $48 million out of $100 million (48 percent). If the federal Medicaid match dollars from "Part Four' do eventually materialize, House leadership has pledged to set aside this money for next year -- creating as much as $261 million to help address next year's billion dollar budget shortfall. This potential $261 million set aside, created by the 51 sustained budget vetoes, would represent not only the high water mark for the past eight years of our Administration, but also the highest number of budget vetoes sustained by any governor since Carroll Campbell 23 years ago and the highest dollar amount of budget vetoes sustained in state history.
"Second, this unparalleled success and win for the taxpayers was no accident. Over recent weeks, our office spent considerable time working with legislative leadership led by Speaker Bobby Harrell on a list of difficult, but at the end of the day practical and sustainable vetoes. With a global recession forcing belt-tightening across the board, we sensed a growing recognition among many in the House and Senate of something we've advocated for years -- namely, that government cannot grow faster than the underlying economy, and that tough decisions must be made now and not kicked down the road to next year.
"Third, the House of Representatives joined us today in firmly rejecting the Obama mindset of spending money we don't have. We'd applaud House members for voting to sustain our veto of the up to $213 million in "Part Four' Medicaid money from Washington, D.C. that is so far only a suggestion. Indeed, today's vote leaves the state on firmer ground financially as this set aside money cushion could effectively reduce next year's budget shortfall from roughly $1 billion to less than $800 million.
"Finally, it is important to remember that we are in no way out of the woods when it comes to facing serious budget challenges. Next year, in the face of a billion dollar budget shortfall, legislative budget-writers will be forced to choose between two undesirable options -- either savagely cut state agencies' budgets and thereby hurt the "least of these' served by government, or materially raise taxes on all South Carolinians.
"All that said, I'd commend many in the House for sustaining these 51 vetoes and saving taxpayers up to $261 million. I'd also applaud House members for almost unanimously agreeing with us that it makes no sense to increase their own House budget at a time when agency budgets across state government are being cut past fat and into bone. In fact, we'd ask the Senate to follow the House's lead on this front, and not only join the rest of the state in tightening its own belt, but also sustain a meaningful number of additional budget vetoes later today that will ultimately benefit the taxpayer."