Governor Mark Sanford said Monday he has a hunch he’s going to lose the stimulus cases. The governor says he expects that the South Carolina Supreme Court will rule against him on the issue of federal stimulus funds. He says he doesn’t plan to appeal the cases, and says it looks like the state will be bound to spend the stimulus money.
Sanford spoke in a press conference Monday afternoon, shortly after U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson ruled that two state lawsuits that Sanford wanted a federal court to decide would have to be decided by the state supreme couurt. Sanford says he does not expect the state court’s decision to be in his favor, because the court’s members are chosen by the General Assembly, which has already ordered him to take the money.
Sanford says it’s time to stop the tug of war if the court’s decision is against his position. “The question now is will we belabor this, and we’re saying we won’t. We will live by Judge Anderson’s decision today, and the Supreme Court’s decision after Wednesday. But it is my hope that within this tug of war that has gone on here over the last couple of weeks that people really do have that constitutional moment.”
That “constitutional moment” Sanford is referring to he says would be a realization that the system of government should allow the governor’s officer more power.
One of those two lawsuits is from a Chapin High School senior and a USC law student. The other suit was filed by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. The lawsuit from the students is expected to be heard this week and a ruling should be issued before a July 1 federal deadline, the deadline to apply for the stimulus money.
A third federal lawsuit filed by Sanford will remain under the jurisdiction of federal court. In that suit, Sanford challenges an order by state lawmakers that would force him to take the money. A ruling on that is expected following the state Supreme Court’s ruling. Sanford said Monday that if the state ruling is against him, he will drop his federal lawsuit.
Sanford says taking the stimulus funds will be disastrous for taxpayers. He says the decision points out that the South Carolina General Assembly is too strong. “We have long believed that there are substantial penalties to the people of South Carolina in operating this way. And there is a cost. Duplication is the by-product of a legislatively-dominated state.”
Sanford said if the ruling is against him, it will bring into public awareness what he called the inadequecies of state government. He says the federal judge, himself a former state lawmaker,commented on the nature of state government in his ruling. “Judge Anderson says it’s a system where almost all power resides in the legislative body, and he says that the governor is almost powerless in many cases. And that underscores a problem in the state, the 1895 constitutional construct from which we operate.”
State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex expressed hope that Judge Anderson’s decision to throw the cases back to the state court will lead to a faster resolution. He said he has completed and signed South Carolina’s application for the stabilization funds, which now requires only Sanford’s signature. If that should occur, Rex said the federal funds could be made available in two to three weeks.
Sanford’s comments from Monday: