By a 5-0 vote The South Carolina Supreme Court Thursday ordered Governor Mark Sanford to accept $700 million in disputed stimulus money included in the state budget. With the vote, the court ruled in favor of school administrators and two South Carolina students who brought two separate lawsuits against Governor Sanford. Sanford called the ruling a big loss for state taxpayers and a huge loss to the concept of the balance of power in state government.
“In South Carolina in many ways we don’t have three branches of government, we have one, and power and authority is too often rooted in the General Assembly in South Carolina. That is not to speak ill of individual members of the General Assembly but to say we have a fundamentally flawed governmental structure that impedes and hurts progress in the state of South Carolina.”
Sanford says he will sign the papers to formally request the stimulus money on Monday.
Sanford says the Governor of South Carolina is elected by voters from across the state and is noted as the Chief Executive of the state, and yet in the state’s fundamentally flawed system, legislators voted in by smaller electorates wheel power and influence that affects the entire state.
“What we have now is a system where you can have a handful of senior legislators, elected from safe districts simply because of a seniority system, accrue very large chunks of power, be elected by nothing more than a couple of thousand folks in one corner of our state or another, in essence be the driver of what futures governors do or don’t do. I think that has horrifying ramifications in terms of the functioning of our government.”
Sanford says the state has loss a huge opportunity to significantly reduce the growing state debt. The windfall of federal government funds coming to the state in the form of stimulus dollars could have been used for that purpose. Sanford says the state will feel the growing burden of more debt in the near future. “With these federal funds, we have papered over what was an historic chance to do something about a whole host of programs that could have been reformed or changed and I think that will prove to be a giant mistake.”
Sanford says he fears that ultimately with this ruling his successor will be facing an insurmountable sea of debt and a likely uncooperative legislature with no ideas of how to solve the problem.
“We will end up with a very, very significant financial hole, almost a billion dollars. I think for the next governor that follows me, because these funds will run out about then, I wish him the best of luck and my prayers in doing so, because i think at that point the General Assembly will be coming back to the Governorship looking for suggestions on how you get out of giant hole we will have created for ourselves.”