Budget saga will likely continue

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COLUMBIA --- It's the last week of South Carolina's legislative session, and lawmakers have a sizable list of unfinished business, ranging from a 50-cent cigarette-tax increase to payday lending restrictions to election reforms.

"It's going to be bottleneck," said Rep. Kenneth Hodges, D-Green Pond. "There will be lots of bills left on the table."

But at least one major problem has seen some progress: Last week, the General Assembly sent a $5.6 billion state budget to Gov. Mark Sanford, which includes $350 million in disputed federal stimulus funds for the fiscal year beginning in July.

The Senate approved it 32-14, and the House passed it 95-18.

The Republican governor has repeatedly refused to accept the money unless an equal portion is used to pay down the state's debt.

"The governor has until 12 o'clock Tuesday to veto the budget, so we'll certainly be dealing with that perhaps as early as Wednesday," Mr. Hodges said.

"I do believe even if it is vetoed, the sentiment of the House and Senate will be to override the governor's veto," the Beaufort County legislator added.

Mr. Sanford's office has been releasing "Waste of the Day" statements targeting specific budget areas, such as state-run golf courses and traffic control at college football games.

Many observers predict the matter of the disputed stimulus money -- $700 million over two years -- will be settled in court.

Reach Sarita Chourey at (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.

HOW THEY VOTED

Here is how area legislators voted on the budget, H. 3560, sent to Gov. Mark Sanford last week:

AIKEN COUNTY

Sen. Nikki Setzler-D -- Yes

Rep. Bill Clyburn-D -- Yes

Rep. Roland Smith-R -- Yes

Sen. Greg Ryberg-R -- No

Sen. Shane Massey-R -- No

Rep. Tom Young-R -- No

BARNWELL COUNTY

Sen. Brad Hutto-D -- Yes

Rep. Lonnie Hosey-D -- Yes


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