COLUMBIA — The S.C. Supreme Court will not hear a case asking whether the Legislature could bypass Gov. Mark Sanford and take $700 million in budget aid from the federal government's stimulus package.
"We find this action is not ripe and appropriate for judicial determination unless or until the General Assembly has taken, as it is authorized to do, measures to appropriate the funds at issue," the justices wrote in the order issued Wednesday. "... the petition for original jurisdiction is denied at this time."
Earlier nonbinding legal opinions have suggested that the governor, not the Legislature, has to be the one to request the money. Attempts to force Sanford to request the cash and other strategies to get the money are in the works, but none have passed the Legislature.
At this time, Senate budget writers are considering a $5.7 billion spending plan that does not use that portion of the stimulus cash.
Last week, Casey Edwards, an 18-year-old senior at Chapin High School in Columbia, asked the court to intervene in the fight between Sanford and the legislative leadership. The governor said he will not take the money unless the Legislature devotes an equal amount of state money toward debt. Legislative leadership argues that the state needs the money to keep government services operating through the recession, and they note that South Carolinians will have to pay it back even if the state doesn't take it.
In all, the state could receive $2.8 billion for government services. That could grow to $8 billion if all the tax breaks and grants are taken advantage of.
Sanford said taking the $700 million budget aid — the only portion that he says he can control — would put the state in a worse financial situation in two years when the money runs out.
Read more in tomorrow's editions of The Post and Courier.