S.C. justices will wait before deciding stimulus funds issue

John O'Brien Apr. 23, 2009, 4:30pm

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - The South Carolina Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to Gov. Mark Sanford's decision not to accept $700 million in federal stimulus funds.

The Court made the decision Wednesday, unanimously voting not to hear a challenge brought by a high school student. Sanford was told he had control over appropriating the funds as long as they went to education programs.

He wanted to use them to pay off the state's debt but could not, so he refused the money. State Attorney General Henry McMaster wrote that a vote by the state Legislature to gain control of the funds would create "a constitutional standoff."

That vote has not happened yet, so the justices ruled the issue "is not ripe and appropriate for judicial determination."

"Until (action by the legislature), there is no real and substantial controversy, as opposed to a contingent, hypothetical or abstract dispute, upon which this Court can render a declaratory judgment," they added.

Since Sanford can not spend the $700 million for the state's debt, he wants lawmakers to promise that much be spent on it in the next two years if he appropriates the money to education programs.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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