Originally created 03/08/06

Budget divide raises dander



COLUMBIA - House budget writers were wrapping up work on a $6.3 billion spending plan Tuesday that does little to close the fiscal rift between the lower chamber's Republicans and GOP Gov. Mark Sanford.

During his Cabinet meeting Tuesday morning, Mr. Sanford continued to emphasize the differences between the $5.9 billion budget he proposed in January with a spending cap and rebates to taxpayers. State spending has nearly doubled from $3.8 billion in 1996, Mr. Sanford said. The increases are "well beyond the growth of people's pocketbooks," he said.

As it stands, legislators are spending all the $624 million in extra cash the recovering economy is generating, Mr. Sanford's office says. That's nearly twice the $313 million in new cash Mr. Sanford recommended.

This year's budget debate has been more rancorous than most, with Mr. Sanford and House leaders arguing about spending caps, repaying money taken from trust accounts years ago and criticism-laden news releases.

Mr. Sanford has met twice with House leadership, including once with the House Republican Caucus.

He seemed to make up some ground last week when House members agreed to abide by a spending cap.

Now House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper says he's not giving Mr. Sanford any more time on the topic.

On Monday, an aide asked Mr. Cooper, a Piedmont Republican, to meet with Mr. Sanford on Tuesday, according to an e-mail provided to The Associated Press. In his response, Mr. Cooper said he was busy wrapping up work on the budget "that's headed in the wrong direction" and that he doubted "there's much need to meet this week. ... The governor will just have to continue communicating with us in the media, it has worked so well thus far."

The governor "extended his hand and got it slapped," a spokesman said.