South Carolina Stimulus Battle Heats Up … Again

By Lindsey Ellerson

May 20, 2009 4:47pm

ABC News’ Lisa Chinn reports:

Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina has repeatedly declared he will spend his state’s stimulus money the way he wants, which would be by retiring some state debt.  But, that just got a little bit more difficult. 

The South Carolina House of Delegates voted 93-23 on Wednesday to overturn Governor Sanford’s veto of the state budget that included provisions that compel the governor to apply for the federal funding, and to spend the money on education and other state programs.  Sanford has repeatedly stated that he will not apply for the $700 million in funding if he cannot spend it the way he wants.  Tuesday evening, he vetoed the entire budget. 

The $700 million represents about one fourth of all the stimulus funding that South Carolina is eligible to receive.  The Palmetto State has received and is using other ARRA funding that is not controlled by the governor. 

In April, Sanford and the South Carolina legislature battled over just who could apply the funds.  When the legislative body attempted to apply without Governor Sanford’s consent, citing an amendment from Sen. James Clyburn, D-S.C., that allows state legislatures a "workaround’  when governors refuse a portion of funds, Obama Administration lawyers sided with Sanford.   

The state Senate will vote on the issue Thursday, and is expected to overturn the veto.  Sanford’s only recourse appears to be through the courts. He has not indicated whether he will file suit against the legislature if he loses the fight.  The current language in the budget compels Sanford to apply for the funding within five days of it becoming law.   

South Carolina has an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent, which is among the highest in the nation.  Without the additional stimulus funding, South Carolina may face across the board budget cuts of seven percent – resulting in heavy layoffs.

Stay tuned.

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