The Department of Health and Environmental Control has petitioned the state Supreme Court to clarify the future of a program that the governor vetoed in the state budget.

The $1.7 million Certificate of Need program regulates the number of hospitals, the number of patient beds and expensive medical equipment purchases in South Carolina.

Haley vetoed funding for it in the 2013-2014 state budget.

“The Certificate of Need program does three things: restricts access, drives down quality and drives up costs. We’re for competition, and since taking office, have fought for better health for all South Carolinians — that’s what this is all about,” Haley said in a prepared statement Friday.

DHEC Director Catherine Templeton said the veto amounts to a one-year suspension of the program because her department has no authority to administer a program that was cut by the governor and the General Assembly.

But instead of spurring plans to expand without restriction, the suspension of Certificate of Need has raised confusion in the health care community.

“A multitude of circuit court actions are likely to follow the General Assembly’s failure to fund, as individual applicants seek relief in separate actions,” DHEC lawyers wrote in court papers filed in Supreme Court Monday.

Last week, administrators at both Medical University Hospital and Roper St. Francis Healthcare predicted the Certificate of Need suspension would likely be resolved in court.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.