Two state agencies that oversee arts and coastal conservation funding in South Carolina were shuttered on Monday, putting 40 state employees out of work after Governor Nikki Haley vetoed $9.5 million in funding for them.
Her vetoes completely eliminated funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission and the South Carolina Sea Grants Consortium, according to The State. In striking the funding, Haley said that the agencies were redundant. She said that university researchers who received funding from the state's Sea Grants Consortium could find funding elsewhere.
“Supporting the arts and supporting the Arts Commission are not the same thing,” Haley wrote in a letter to Rep. Robert W. Harrell, speaker of the House of Representatives. “Instead of taking a command-and-control approach to promoting the arts, we would be better off returning those funds to the public, to let them decide for themselves what artistic endeavors deserve financial support.”
The vetoes were among 81 that she issued on Thursday, shortly before a midnight deadline.
Last year, Haley vetoed funding for the same two agencies, but the House overrode her decision, saving the agencies from the cutting block. This year, the legislature pushed its budget deliberations into the new fiscal year, which began July 1. The agencies may be revived once the legislature convenes again on July 17.
If state lawmakers don't restore the funding, “we're done, we're gone,” says Ken May, executive director of the arts commission. “We're cautiously optimistic we'll get the overrides. Even so, our people are losing a week and a half of pay that they can't afford.
“The real story is not about what we lose, but what the state loses if we don't overrride the vetoes.”
May said that his agency, which employs 20 state workers, doesn't just provide grants to artists. The agency also works to ensure there is arts education in the schools, provides career development to local artists and brings arts to rural areas.
Rick DeVoe, executive director of the state's Sea Grant program, says that his agency isn't redundant and in fact, is unique in the country. Mandated by state legislation to manage the sea grant program in South Carolina, it receives matching funds from the federal government to work with a national network administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of 32 university-based programs. The programs work with coastal communities on preservation, education and training projects.
“The mission is to support research,” DeVoe says. “There is no other program in the federal government or the State of Carolina that does that.”
Anand Jayakaran, assistant professor at the School of Agricultural, Forest & Environmental Sciences at Clemson University, oversees a two-year $100,000 research project funded by Sea Grant. He told Stateline that his project, which explores stormwater retention along the coast, had received half its funding, but the second year's funding is now in doubt.
“It creates uncertainty in terms of the livelihoods of several people associated with the project. It also undermines the validity of all the work that we do,” Jayakaran says.
“It also undermines generally the whole attitude towards science in the region,” he said. “It's already an uphill battle for us to talk about things that are not politically correct, like climate change. And it undermines us when we try to do the bread-and-butter research that affects people's lives on a day-to-day basis.”