The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that former governor Mark Sanford overstepped his authority when he tried to find a new source of funding for the state Budget & Control Board after vetoing its budget last year.
The ruling cancels the governor’s veto of the $25 million budget for the Budget and Control Board, an agency that runs many of the state’s administrative functions. At the time, Sanford said the legislative budget was too wasteful. He instead took more than $13 million from the Rural Infrastructure Bank’s Trust Fund to help pay for payroll and “essential operating costs.”
The trust fund was set up in 2006 to help rural towns pay for water and sewer service projects. The town of Timmonsville sued the Budget & Control Board in August, claiming it will not be able to fix its water system without the funds.
The Supreme Court sided with Timmonsville mayor Darrick Jackson, saying the state constitution only gives the Governor power to veto items in the budget. The justices ruled Sanford did not have the ability to veto a funding source and keep the budget item itself (in this case, Budget & Control Board programs).
The Governor is empowered to veto “items,” which comprise both the designated funds and the objects and purposes for which the appropriation is intended. By vetoing only one of several sources of funds, the Governor vetoed only part of an item, rendering the veto unconstitutional.
The Board can now decide how it will repay the infrastructure fund. No town or county has ever taken money from the fund since it was created.