June 18, 2014 Updated: June 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Senate was tossing out most of Gov. Nikki Haley's budget vetoes Wednesday, including $2 million for senior caregivers.
The Senate was taking up the 61 vetoes that the House chose to override a day earlier. A two-thirds majority is also needed in the Senate to restore the budget items. Voting continued late Wednesday.
The House upheld just 15 of Haley's 76 vetoes on Tuesday, tallying $1.4 million. Eight of those items designated no money.
The Senate voted 39-4 to restore $2 million to the lieutenant governor's Office on Aging. Haley contends the agency is growing too fast.
But former Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell said programs that help elderly residents live independently in their homes save taxpayers money, while giving seniors a better quality of life, because Medicaid-paid nursing beds are 40 times more expensive. The $2 million would serve 4,000 families.
"I don't know of anyone, given a choice, who would not stay at home rather than going into a facility," said Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla.
Senators have yet to decide whether to keep a $12,000 annual increase in legislators' stipend for in-district expenses.
Senators agreed with Haley in cutting $1 million designated toward promoting tourism in rural areas. The money would have created a grant-awarding program through the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, dubbed "Undiscovered South Carolina."
Haley argued the budget needs to take care of existing state parks and welcome centers, not increase spending through "yet another grant program."
Sen. Paul Cambell, R-Goose Creek, unsuccessfully asked his colleagues to help rural counties.
"It's promoting destinations that lack the resources to create exposure," he said. "Our rural folks need help in developing their locations."
In 2008, legislators eliminated a grant program that former Gov. Mark Sanford dubbed a legislative slush fund. He railed against it for its spending on local festivals and tourism projects.