S.C.'s top court to Gov. Sanford: Take the money

John O'Brien Jun. 4, 2009, 5:00pm

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford must request $700 million in federal stimulus funds because the Legislature told him to, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Two students filed suit against Sanford, who would not accept the funds unless they would be used to fix the state's debt. If he accepted it, though, he was required to spend it on education programs.

Sanford, a Republican, wanted lawmakers to pledge an equal amount of the budget to help plug the state's debt if he used the funds on education programs. Lawmakers overrode Sanford's veto of the proposed budget in May

"Under South Carolina law, the General Assembly has the sole authority to direct the appropriation of funds and, therefore, is the entity which decides whether the State desires to receive the funds," the justices wrote.

"In its appropriation of the (State Fiscal Stabilization) funds in the budget and its concurrent resolution, the General Assembly has acted on the Governor's §1607(a) certification and expressed the State's desire to receive the funds.

"At this stage in the process, the Governor certainly has no discretion to make a contradictory decision on behalf of the State. We hold the Governor must apply for the SFS funds."

State Attorney General Henry McMaster had already delivered an opinion on the matter, in which he wrote that if the Legislature attempted to force Sanford to request the funds it would create a "constitutional standoff."

The state Supreme Court declined to review the issue until the Legislature acted. Sanford removed the suit to federal court, but U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson ruled it belonged in state court. A hearing was held Wednesday.

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

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