Sanford supports suit's aims

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Gov. Mark Sanford on Monday threw his support behind a lawsuit seeking to eliminate the Budget and Control Board, a panel he labeled the "undebated, undiscussed central nervous system" of South Carolina state politics.

The five-member board oversees the spending of billions of state dollars.

Mr. Sanford sits on the panel and, therefore, is a defendant in the lawsuit filed in August by Change South Carolina Now.

As a result, state insurance will pay his legal fees.

But the governor supports the lawsuit because it seeks to eliminate a panel he believes is overly political and inefficient, in large part because of the inclusion of members of the Legislature.

The board includes the governor, comptroller general, state treasurer and the chairmen of the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees.

The participation of General Assembly members on the board "represents a usurpation of executive branch authority and not a 'cooperative' effort with the executive branch,'" Mr. Sanford wrote in response to the lawsuit.

Previous attempts to disband the board have failed. In the last case, in 1977, the court ruled the panel was not unconstitutional because the two legislative members on the board were in the minority and so had limited influence on decisions.

Mr. Sanford believes this lawsuit gives the Court more freedom and flexibility to decide what responsibilities are legislative and what functions are executive - and how, if at all, the makeup of the Budget and Control Board blurs that distinction.

Lawyers for the board are asking the Supreme Court to deny a hearing for the case.

The high court has yet to decide.

The legislative and executive members of the Budget and Control Board often split on controversial issues, with the state treasurer playing tie-breaker.

When the General Assembly this summer chose then-Rep. Converse Chellis to fill the rest of Thomas Ravenel's term, it was seen as a win for the legislative contingent of the board.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Chellis said, "Change SC Now and the Governor are attempting to interject political issues into the courtroom where they do not belong."

Mr. Ravenel resigned after being indicted on federal drug charges, to which he has pleaded guilty.