COLUMBIA — An 18-year-old plaintiff has filed an action before the state Supreme Court this morning to give the Legislature power to draw down $700 million in federal stimulus cash that the governor has refused to request.
Casey Edwards, a senior at Chapin High School in Columbia, is the plaintiff. The teen is represented by attorneys Dwight Drake and former state Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian.
This is the latest evolution in the dispute over $700 million in federal stimulus cash that is designed to help sustain government services, primarily public education, through the recession. Gov. Mark Sanford said there is more than enough wasteful spending in the state budget to fund core services while applying the amount of stimulus cash toward state debt.
Legislative budget writers warn of mass layoffs and "Armageddon" if the state does not get that stimulus money, which must be spread over two years.
Sanford said he will only accept it if the Legislature applies an equal amount of state cash toward debt. The White House twice denied Sanford's request to apply the federal money directly toward state debt.
Originally, the Legislature had banked on bypassing the governor and accepting the funds but legal opinions have questioned their authority.
Today, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to finish its work on two state budget proposals, one that uses the stimulus money and one that does not.
According to the legal offices of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, the Supreme Court has been asked to take the case in its original jurisdiction bypassing lower courts and issue a declaratory judgment that affirms the Legislature's unique responsibility to appropriate funds provided by Congress under the terms of the recently passed federal stimulus legislation.
A news conference is planned for 1 p.m.
Also today, the state Board of Economic Advisors is scheduled to meet. The panel will analyze various recession benchmarks, including tax collections and unemployment claims. They will also decide if more budget cuts must be made to state agencies before the June 30 end of this fiscal year. Weekly unemployment claims will also reveal if the state unemployment rate will likely increase toward 14 percent as forecasted.