Columbia, SC (WLTX) Gov. Nikki Haley announced Thursday that she has vetoed $18.5 million from next year's state budget, including $2 million from the Office on Aging and an increase in state lawmakers' expense pay.
Lawmakers put in the budget that they would get an additional $12,000 each to pay for in-district expenses. But Haley, a former House member, says, "You are not required for any receipts whatsoever, so it goes straight into your bank account. And so to add $12,000 more to that, in a time when we've really discussed first responders and education and caseworkers and everything else, it's just the wrong time."
The cut to the Office on Aging is money that would have provided $500 vouchers for people giving care to senior family members or friends, so those caregivers can run errands, get some sleep, or just have a much-needed break, according to director Tony Kester.
He says the veto could cost taxpayers more in the long run. "If we lose the caregiver, then we also lose the one who was being cared for, and we know that institutional care is so much more expensive."
Gov. Haley says she cut the money because the Office on Aging's budget has gone from $4.5 million four years ago to $12.7 million next year. "No agency should grow that fast without us sitting back and analyzing whether it's working well. So this was slowing it down, saying wait a minute, we've done so much," she says.
Kester says the agency's budget has grown so much because it was behind to begin with, and because of the state's growing senior population.
The $18.5 million in vetoes is much smaller than last year, when she vetoed $94 million. Haley says it's because the House and Senate worked better together and with her administration.
"It is really nice to see how we are all starting to work together," she told reporters at the Statehouse. "So this is a budget that you will not see near as much vetoed in this because we didn't have near as many problems with each other."