As expected Governor Mark Sanford Tuesday vetoed several sections of the state budget that compelled him to spend stimulus funds. Sanford says the budget failed to put South Carolina in a better post-stimulus financial position.
Sanford says that from a White House standpoint and from an Attorney General standpoint the law is clear giving governorships across the country discretion over a portion of the stimulus money. Sanford says the executive office in the state, including the Governor’s cabinet has legal discretion over federal monies from several programs. Sanford says with the General Assembly’s inclusion of the stimulus money he has not applied for in the state budget state legislators are wrongfully challenging his discretionary powers in dealing with the stimulus funds.
“But in this case because the legislative branch says we don’t like the way you intend to use these monies, we’re going to usurp that authority, the logical question would be, then why have a Governor? In other words, this is an unusual and unprecedented step forward in the degradation of the balance of power that is vital to a functioning government.”
Sanford is adamant in his belief that a compromise will be hammered out that will include an increased amount of funds going toward paying down state debt. Sanford refused to say that a court fight was eminent.
Sanford says if the state goes down the road that the present budget bill sets, South Carolina could find itself creeping toward a billion dollar hole in just 24 months. Sanford says this a unique opportunity for the state to pay down debt with the windfall of federal funds coming into the state. The Governor noted that the state is 4th in the nation in the amount of state money allocated to debt service.
“A full 11 percent of what we spend every single year goes not to teachers, not to health care, but to debt repayment. it means it’s going to interest for a bond holder in New York or Zurich as opposed to a teacher in Gaffney or Greenville.”
Sanford says if you start to pay down some of the debt, you would end up with a $168 million dollar savings in just the first 2 year alone that could then go to education and health care.
Sanford says the state is being bombarded with messages from a number of groups with numerous political agendas that wrongfully say that the state would lose the stimulus money to other states if they don’t use it now.
“If we don’t spend the money it is going off to some other state and that is just categorically not true. We have 18 months to come up with some compromise on how we spend the money. I think it’s inconceivable that we can’t come to some kind of solution and compromise on this thing before that 18 monthly window closes.”
Sanford also vetoed the newly created Capitol Police Force and the prohibition on the Highway Patrol recouping costs from game day and special events traffic control.
Sanford says he truly believes that his vetoes have a solid chance of being sustained. ” The fact that you got to essentially to the 50-50 mark in the senate, which is a place we never came remotely close to before on these kind of budget debates, says we’re awfully close. With what allies we have on the Senate side, it’s a two vote swing pretty much one way or the other, which is to say that it is close. If there is enough public pressure out there indeed this could very well be a different outcome that what we’ve seen in budget vetoes.”
Sanford separately vetoed 47 provisions in the budget he says continued wasteful practices, represented misplaced priorities and made inefficient structural changes.