Sanford prepares budget vetoes

AIKEN --- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford plans to challenge the Legislature today over a state budget he calls "fundamentally flawed."

 

He told two Aiken groups Monday that he is preparing his vetoes and will reveal them to the General Assembly today.

The governor met with the Aiken County Republican Party and the Rotary Club of Aiken, discussing his problems with the budget and stating after the meetings, "I think we need to go back to the drawing board."

Mr. Sanford said he has problems with the way the Legislature's budget requires him to spend every dollar of federal stimulus money without paying down debt.

South Carolina stands to see $2.8 billion in federal stimulus cash heading to state agencies and programs during the next two years, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Sanford would have had to request almost $700 million, but he previously said he wouldn't take the federal money unless it was used to pay down debt. The White House twice rejected that approach.

He said Monday that he intends to accept the stimulus funding but thinks 10 percent of it should be placed into a reserve for debt payments. The governor said he believes the federal law establishing the funds allows him to have discretion over how 10 percent of that money is spent.

Mr. Sanford said the Legislature's requirement for him to spend every cent of the stimulus money raises a "larger constitutional question" that he said could work its way into court.

The governor said paying down South Carolina's debt is important because the state ranks fourth highest in the U.S. per capita when it comes to the amount allocated for debt.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

THE DEBATE:

The Legislature lumped $348 million in federal stabilization cash intended to ease the recession's toll in a separate part of the budget that makes the stakes clear to the public. The lack of stimulus cash will yank $185 million from public schools, $100 million from colleges and $50 million from prisons, police and courts.

THE GOVERNOR:

"The budget is written in a way to make a political point. That's a very irresponsible way to write a budget." -- Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer

Mr. Sawyer said the governor will detail his vetoes this afternoon but wouldn't say how many there might be. In 2005, Mr. Sanford issued only one veto, but in 2007 he issued 243.

THE LEGISLATURE:

"It is a very clear picture of what doesn't get funded if the stimulus is not included in the budget." -- House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston

Legislators in both chambers have three days to wrap up work on bills they'll otherwise have to leave behind until January.

-- Associated Press