McMaster submits opinion on stimulus issue

John O'Brien Apr. 2, 2009, 6:58pm


COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - South Carolina lawmakers will not be able to stop Gov. Mark Sanford's refusal of $700 million in federal stimulus money, state Attorney General Henry McMaster recently wrote.

McMaster took that stance in an opinion released Tuesday that was written in response to an inquiry by state Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Republican. Sanford, also a Republican, wants to use the money to pay the State's debt but is being told he must spend it on education programs.

South Carolina's total share of the stimulus funds is nearly $8 billion. McMaster said that, ultimately, a court decision would probably be needed on the matter.

A vote by the Legislature to accept the $700 million if Sanford does not by Friday could create a "constitutional standoff," McMaster wrote.

The $700 million are classified as fiscal stabilization funds. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the White House has said a state legislature cannot apply for them.

"(F)ederal law bestows broad discretion upon the Governor, as the chief executive of the State, to decide whether or not to apply for and utilize these funds," McMaster wrote.

"Thus, this situation may be perceived as somewhat distinct from the previous cases decided by our courts..."

McMaster, a Republican, has said it is "highly likely" that he will run for governor next year.

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