Following in the footsteps of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) yesterday vetoed the state Legislature’s appropriations for the South Carolina Arts Commission. If the Legislature can’t override her veto, South Carolina would become the second state in the country without an arts agency. As Ian David Moss points out, the South Carolina Legislature overrode a number of former Gov. Mark Sanford’s budget vetoes last year, including one gutting much of the Arts Commission’s funding, but it’s a new governor and a new political climate. If state lawmakers are going to buck the governor on anything, it strikes me as more likely that they’ll spend political capital to fund the South Carolina presidential primary elections, which also fell victim to Haley’s veto pen.
As was the case in Kansas, the funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission wasn’t the difference between a balanced budget and a deficit. Instead, Brownback and Haley had both pushed to eliminate their arts commissions, and when their legislatures disagreed with them on the wisdom of cutting small programs that support a wide range of arts endeavors across their states, they eliminated the agencies through executive action. The South Carolina Arts Commission was required to spend 70 percent of its funding on grants, so most of the funds that Haley vetoed would have gone directly to arts projects rather than to administration.
Government support isn’t necessary a litmus test for Republicans, but it’s certainly becoming a way for Republican governors to prove their small-government credentials in the run-up to a presidential election. Along the way, they may end up dismantling a lot of valuable infrastructure, review processes for grants, and funding organizations used to leverage donations from the private sector. We can hope that individual donors and foundations make up the gap. But it’s still unattractive to watch Republican candidates earn their spurs by cutting jobs and eliminating small but useful organizations.