The Senate Finance Committee will meet Monday afternoon to create two state budget proposals–one using 350-million dollars in stimulus dollars, and one without that federal money. A resolution from Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman would override Governor Mark Sanford’s desire to divert stimulus money for use toward state debt. Leatherman’s resolution reached the Senate floor last week, but Leatherman agreed to bring the budget proposals back to the Senate this week before a vote is taken.
Williamsburg County Democratic Senator Yancey McGill says South Carolina can’t miss the opportunity. “I am truly of the opinion that if this money is being spread across this country and we don’t take the monies that are designated for South Carolina, what’s going to happen is somebody else is going to get our funding, and we’re going to end up having to foot the bill. The grandmammas, granddaddies, young couples who can’t hardly buy groceries or meet mortgage payments now, and the things that simply wouldn’t be fair to the citizens of South Carolina.”
Beaufort Senator Tom Davis was among those opposed to passing the legislation immediately, because he feels there are lots of unanswered questions. He says it’s a matter of having the federal government dictate any state’s appropriations process, just because the state is taking stimulus cash. “And that’s a dangerous slope to go down, if you believe in federalism like I do. The federal government has certain roles and the states have certain roles. And the slope you get on when you start taking more and more federal dollars is like a narcotic. And you get addicted. And the federal government has requirements that come with those dollars and they dictate policy. And I think that’s dangerous, and it results in a loss of sovereignty for South Carolina. So we need to take a long hard look at what accepting those federal dollars entails.”
U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham has made similar comments, saying it’s an issue of the U-S Constitution’s 10th Amendment. But Graham has also said that if the money is on the table, that South Carolina should consider taking it, since some state will get it, regardless. State Senator Davis is not so sure. “If it’s unconstitutional, and those dollars from the federal government results in us having to change state programs and having to create new benefits that will cost our taxpayers, I’m going to have concerns about accepting that money.”
Congressman Jim Clyburn said the U.S. Department of Education may send the money directly to South Carolina schools, even if state lawmakers don’t override Sanford. Sanford says he hasn’t changed his mind.