By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C., July 18 (Reuters) - South Carolina lawmakers voted in a special session on Wednesday to override dozens of budget vetoes by the state's governor that cut funding for teachers' pay raises, an arts commission, and non-profit rape crisis centers.
Republican Governor Nikki Haley earlier this month vetoed $67.5 million of the state's $6.7 billion spending plan for 2012-2013 in a effort to shut down state programs she said "don't work."
But lawmakers in the Republican-led state legislature said Haley went too far and moved to restore some of the funds, including $10 million for teachers' pay raises, $3.9 million for an arts commission and $450,000 for the state's 15 private, non-profit rape crisis centers.
"Of all the vetoes that need to be overridden, this is the most important one," said Republican Senator Jake Knotts, voicing support for the rape crisis centers."Victims of assault, women and children, are the ones who need the most help. It's money well-spent," he said.
The rape crisis centers served 5,000 victims of sexual assault last year, said Melonea Marek, executive director of People Against Rape in Charleston.
Along with Massachusetts, South Carolina was one of the two states whose budget was not signed before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. State lawmakers, however, approved a continuing resolution to the keep the state government running.
Haley, who was elected in 2010 with strong Tea Party support, won office on pledges to reduce government spending.
Senator Vincent Sheheen, a Democrat, welcomed the news the arts commission would continue to be funded.
"We just saved South Carolina's Arts Commission from extinction," he wrote on his Facebook page. "It is frustrating to continue to see the efforts of people who keep wanting us to be a third world country."
The vote putting the money back in the budget came after hundreds of arts supporters occupied the lawn in front of the statehouse on Monday with signs, drum circles and performances.
State lawmakers had an extra $1.4 billion to spend in this year's budget because revenue was higher than expected.
But some lawmakers said the state should have been more aggressive in holding back spending in a difficult economy.
"We're spending everything we've got," said Republican Senator Shane Massey. "We're not out of the woods yet. There has to be a line." (Editing by Kevin Gray. Desking by Christopher Wilson)
99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."