This week Governor Sanford sent a second letter to the Obama Administration, asking for permission for the funds to be diverted to pay off debt, this time being more specific. Sanford wrote that he wants to use 577 million dollars of the stimulus funds to pay down the roughly 579 million principal for school facilities bonds and research university infrastructure bonds. The governor says that would save 125 million dollars in interest payments over the next 13 years, which could then be directed towards educational purposes. Once again, both democratic and republican lawmakers say Sanford knows that the white house is not allowed by law to grant that request. Pickens County Senator Larry Martin, a Republican, says federal law simply doesn’t permit what Sanford is asking for. “I don’t know where in the law he’s hanging his hat on the request. There seems to be some misunderstanding about that apparently in reading of it, but the whole idea of paying down debt particularly in a time that we’re in with the economic situation would seem to run a little bit counter to the whole intent behind the stimulus money.
U.S.Senator Lindsey Graham says he’s looking into the constitutionality of the stimulus legislation allowing state General Assemblies like the one in South Carolina to override a governor’s attempt to divert stimulus money.
A week ago House lawmakers gave initial approval to a $2.5 billion basic spending plan for the state’s public schools in the $6.6 billion proposed budget that is now in the hands of the State Senate. State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex says the House did some good things and some questionable things concerning how they used stimulus dollars. “They took $93 million of recurring money, stable dollars out of Education and replaced it with stimulus dollars which are only going to be here for two years. That’s a little disconcerting that we might be creating a cliff that we’re going fall off of in two years.”
Rex says he is hoping to persuade members of the State Senate to use a diffErent approach before the final state budget is voted on by the HOuse and Senate and presented to the Governor.