Haley's vetoes cut state funding for Mitchelville project

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Haley's vetoes cut state funding for Mitchelville project

Published Friday, July 6, 2012   |  656 Words  |  

Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed $200,000 in state funding to purchase land for a park at Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island, site of what is believed to be the nation's first planned community for freed slaves.

The line-item veto was one of 82 Haley announced Thursday, part of her effort to trim the 2012-13 state budget passed by the S.C. General Assembly on June 28. Her cuts also would wipe out the state Arts Commission and cut money for teachers' raises.

Haley's vetoes didn't touch state funding for the Beaufort County School District, which will increase about $2.2 million compared to the previous fiscal year. However, they did cut money for the Jasper Ocean Terminal, a proposed port on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

In all, Haley slashed $67.5 million from the $6.9 billion budget.

The money for Mitchelville was cut, along with money for the North Myrtle Beach Historical Museum and for the preservation of African-American sites in Charleston. In her memo, Haley called the projects "pork-barrel spending."

"After several years of economic downturn, which led to better prioritization, one good year has ushered in the return of these pork projects," the memo states. "We need to send a clear message now that we have learned from our past of pork-barrel spending."

Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head, disagreed with Haley's characterization of Mitchelville.

"The historical relevance of Mitchelville cannot be overemphasized," Patrick wrote in an email.

"Mitchelville is not some 'Green Bean Museum' or 'Balloon Festival,'" he added, referring to two past examples of what he considered to be pork-barrel spending.

The nonprofit group working to preserve Mitchelville hoped to use the money to buy about 10.5 acres next to 35 acres of town- and county-donated land along Beach City Road. But Randy Dolyniuk, chairman of the Mitchelville Preservation Project, said no firm plans had been made since the money wasn't a sure thing.

Dolyniuk called the veto disappointing.

"I'm not sure what we'll do now," Dolyniuk said. The board is set to meet next week and will discuss alternatives, he said.

"The people of Mitchelville, they were all of a sudden free, and they didn't say, 'Let's go back to the plantation. This isn't working,' " Dolyniuk said. "If something doesn't work, that doesn't mean we lose our passion or enthusiasm about the project."

The funding plan survived the S.C. Senate's budget deliberations in late May. Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said then he supported Mitchelville's restoration, but would rather see the funding for the project go through a competitive selection process with the Department of Archives and History rather than receive a "political earmark."

Davis, who couldn't be reached Friday for comment, voted for an amendment, which ultimately failed, that would have stripped about $4 million worth of earmarks, including the Mitchelville money, from the Senate's budget proposal.

S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell announced Friday that the House will convene July 17 to consider overrides of the vetoes, which requires a two-third majority vote in both houses of the General Assembly.

Patrick said he believes the Mitchelville veto could be overturned.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Money for Mitchelville survives SC Senate; May 24, 2012

Money to preserve Mitchelville community on Hilton Head tied up in SC budget debate; May 23, 2012

Gov. Haley's budget veto message

$2.2 million increase in state funds on tap for Beaufort County schools; June 28, 2012