S.C. Sea Grant Supporters Rally Against Haley Veto
By Sarita Chourey
Morris News Service
July 12, 2012 — COLUMBIA -- Within 16 hours, an online petition protesting Gov. Nikki Haley's elimination of the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium had gathered nearly 100 signatures, including one from someone in San Francisco.
Sea Grant supporters from Bluffton, Hilton Head, and Charleston, alongside signers from Minnesota, New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio argued the case for the grant-capturing agency -- one that supporters note yields a 1,000 percent return on its state tax dollar investment. The Change.org petition was started by Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine of St. Helena Island, of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, in response to Haley's veto of the consortium's $428,000 state appropriation.
The petition letter, aimed at reaching state lawmakers, describes the consortium as "science serving America's coasts."
"This is one of the few multi-university programs that integrate the work across universities and avoids the politics if (they were) housed in a single university," wrote John L. Knott, Jr. of Charleston, when he signed the online petition. "The recognition that S.C. Sea Grant has gotten and the conversations I have had nationally indicate that the reason for high marks and respect is a direct result of this structure."
But the Republican governor characterized the consortium as unnecessary.
"Instead of supporting a separate infrastructure and a dedicated state agency for this purpose, participating institutions could develop an agreement among themselves, through which they could negotiate their respective financial contributions without the state's direct involvement," wrote Haley in her July 5 veto message.
Her adversaries on the issue say that's not realistic. Instead, they say, the governor threatens to burden universities with an unfunded mandate, leaving Palmetto State institutions to jostle among themselves over funding. What's more, say consortium backers, the current system -- present in dozens of other states -- facilitates local control for local projects injected with local expertise.
On Monday, Haley sent an email from her campaign account defending her 81 total vetoes, referring to the "$6 million Sea Grant Consortium" when she asked, "Do we really need taxpayers paying for an entire agency that does university grant research work for schools that already get state dollars?"
� Consortium executive director Rick DeVoe said in an interview Tuesday that the $6 million figure is the estimated total in competitive grants the consortium could win for South Carolina from a variety of sources, provided it receives the $428,000 lawmakers intended for it. Without the state appropriation, he said, the agency would cease to exist.
Already the consortium's 20 staffers are considered unemployed, said DeVoe, because Haley's vetoes came after the July 1 start of the fiscal year and immediately took effect.
Lawmakers will return next week to vote on whether to override each of the governor's vetoes. A two-thirds majority vote of both house is necessary to override them.
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