Posts Tagged ‘SC’

SC gov hints that stimulus fight may soon end

Monday, June 1st, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal judge dealt a major blow Monday to Gov. Mark Sanford’s monthslong fight to stop South Carolina from taking $700 million in federal stimulus money, and the governor said the battle may be nearing an end.

“It looks like we will be bound to spend that money,” Sanford told reporters. “I would say that would be a very plausible outcome given the foreshadowing that’s been done today.”

The Republican with possible presidential aspirations has railed against President Barack Obama’s $787 billion bailout package, penning op-eds for national publications and appearing on television talk shows. But he’s dealt with protests at home, where educators have predicated massive teacher layoffs without the money for already cash-strapped schools.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday in lawsuits filed by two students and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators that seek to force Sanford to take the cash. U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson on Monday rejected Sanford’s efforts to get those suits into federal court.

“Hopefully we’ll get our answers now,” said Casey Edwards, one of the students who sued. She is to graduate from Chapin High School next week.

Sanford said he’ll go along with whatever the state court decides. He had sued state Attorney General Henry McMaster in federal court after the legislature overrode his veto of a budget that required him to accept the $700 million over two years. The judge made no decisions on that case, but Sanford said he’ll drop it if he loses the state Supreme Court fight.

“We’re not going to carry on with a whole series of legal appeals,” he said.

Kershaw County Schools Superintendent Frank Morgan said the news brought an “overwhelming feeling of relief. This has been such a long, long, long process. … I think we’ve put a lot of good people through a lot of stress and anxiety that I’m not sure was necessary.”

His district stands to get about $2 million of the $185 million slated to go schools around the state.

The news came the same day that thousands of would-be teachers packed a job fair where districts were only hiring 300 educators.

State Education Superintendent Jim Rex was glad there’d be no more legal delays.

“We need to resolve this fiasco in a way that doesn’t hurt kids. Every other state and governor is getting this done, and we need to get it done here, too,” Rex said in a prepared statement.

Sanford has refused to request the $700 million he controls unless it’s used to offset state debt. The White House twice rejected that approach.

Sanford thinks the federal stimulus law will devalue the dollar and saddle generations with debt. Judge Anderson was no fan of it either, saying it was poorly written. But he noted it was clear Congress intended to allow legislators to get around governors who didn’t want the money, citing the role that U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., played in amending it.

Dick Harpootlian, the Columbia lawyer representing the students, said Sanford’s legal efforts had amounted to delay tactics.

And Anderson noted the odd nature of the whole affair, quoting James Petigru, a former state attorney general who remarked when South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860 that it was too small to be a republic and “too big to be an insane asylum.”

Sanford noted the outcome likely weakens the powers of a governor’s office that’s already one of the weakest in the nation. Sanford’s limited role involves a Cabinet, appointments to boards, vetoes and whatever he can do with bully pulpit of the office.

He could have requested the money and avoided a court decision that could mean reduced powers. But he said one of his advisers dismissed the idea, saying “if you’re already naked, you’re naked. Just call an ace an ace and don’t try to pretend something is there that isn’t there.”