State Arts Commission is back in business

After eight days of being locked out of their building, employees at the South Carolina Arts Commission were back at work Thursday, thanks to state lawmakers.

Legislators voted 110-5 to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto cutting the agency as part of her proposed budget for the new fiscal year. Employees like Susan DuPlessis said it is a relief.

"I am just thrilled to be back at work, to be able to be at our desk, to be at our computers, to be able to connect with our constituents."

The agency promotes and supports many forms of art in the state. They also provide funding for grants. South Carolina would have been the only state in the country without an arts commission if the veto had been sustained.

Governor Haley still defends her decision. She said the delay on a budget vote by lawmakers did not help.

I did not ask to wait for the last minute. I did to appreciate having so few days and having it go over year end to have to deal with that. But I can't control what the legislature does. It is not that we do not like the arts, but you have to question the fact that you have 18 people in an 18,000 square foot building; a director making $100,000. There is a lot of other things that could be going for."

In 2010, the state invested more that $2 million in the commission, generating more than $80 million in local matching funds; according to the agency.

The commission has been on the budget crosshairs for the past couple of years, but advocates like Commission Senior Manager Rusty Sox say arts are valuable to states.

"States also need to include good quality of life components. So that South Carolina is a great place to live, work, visit, and get an education. The arts are a key part of that."

DuPLessis hopes to keep it going in the future.

"We're here to help the state thrive. That is the work that we are doing in communities, with artists. We make the state better."