By Jason Spencer
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen criticized state lawmakers for putting some college construction projects on hold this week at a campaign stop at the University of South Carolina Upstate, calling the move "an example of a lack of leadership."
The state Budget and Control Board voted unanimously to suspend such projects Wednesday at colleges that have raised tuition above the national average, effecting more than a dozen institutions, the Associated Press reported.
Sheheen, after delivering his stump speech to about 250 students and activists, said in a series of brief interviews that "We can't have higher-ed policy set by the Budget and Control Board. It doesn't make any sense."
"This is an example of government by committee at its worst," he said. "What you need is a governor who is serious about higher education, and you need a Higher Education Commission that is committed to having a strategic plan for how universities can get a hold on tuition and move forward spending our precious tax dollars as responsibly as possible."
Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, has advocated streamlining the Budget and Control Board and moving it under the auspices of the governor's office. He has co-sponsored legislation to that effect in the past.
Sheheen also advocated streamlining the higher education system in South Carolina and making it easier to transfer credits between institutions. He said the state should devote an increasing amount of tax dollars to higher education over the next four years as the state budget grows, following the examples of North Carolina and Georgia.
South Carolina is facing a $1 billion-plus shortfall next budget year.
Sheheen also criticized Gov. Mark Sanford, who held a higher education summit this week, for not doing so seven years ago. The term-limited Sanford must step down in January.
Sheheen faces Republican Nikki Haley, a state representative from Lexington, in November.