COLUMBIA — Senators resumed drafting a budget with $350 million in federal stimulus cash that Gov. Mark Sanford is refusing to request, even though they warned that spending cuts for education, health care and other programs will leave "blood all over the floor."
Senate Corrections Chairman Mike Fair, R-Greenville, is filing a bill this week that would release prisoners early as one cost savings. That bill would leave the decision to close three prisons and free up to 3,100 prisoners early in Sanford's hands.
The closures are intended to help the Corrections Department come up with $21 million in savings to address an extra 7.4 percent in budget cuts, and those are on top of a deficit rising to $50 million in the current budget year, Fair said.
Separately, Sanford allies were wrapping up work on a compromise budget with help from Sanford's staff, but weren't ready to provide details.
It's another twist in developing spending plans for the fiscal year that begins July 1 that turn on a few key points: Forcing or convincing Sanford to request stimulus money he insists should be used to reduce state debt; dealing with the consequences of not having that $350 million and how to spread $578 million in Medicaid-related cash to agencies that don't directly care for the sick, elderly or poor.
South Carolina agencies and programs stand to see $2.8 billion in federal stimulus cash flowing through budgets during the upcoming two fiscal years. Sanford controls decisions on requesting $350 million each year, or a total of $700 million.
The White House twice rejected Sanford's debt repayment proposals and said the money needs to be used in education and to help stave off job losses among teachers.
Sanford's role in developing an alternative spending plan isn't clear.
"They worked on it all weekend and the governor needs to review it," said Sen. Tom Davis, a Beaufort Republican and former Sanford chief of staff.