COLUMBIA — As the state Legislature wraps up its work on the proposed $5.6 billion budget, Gov. Mark Sanford urged the public to join him in clamoring for change.
Sanford held a press conference today to highlight what he sees as wasteful and inefficient proposals in the spending plan, which legislators have six days to approve.
The House is expected to take up the budget tomorrow, and legislative leadership could work out an agreement that will bypass the typical negotiations period. The House prepared the first draft of the budget in March and the Senate revised the spending plan last month and sent it back to the House.
At the core of Sanford's objection to the budget is a provision in the Senate-passed version that would use $350 million in federal stimulus budget aid for the state, if the Legislature can access that money. Several efforts are underway to help the Legislature get the money without Sanford's involvement.
Legal opinions point to Sanford has the only one who can request the $700 million in budget aid — to be available in two installments of $350 million over the next two years — but the governor will only drawn down that money if the Legislature uses an equal amount of state dollars toward debt.
Sanford also took aim Monday at the proposed Capitol Police Force that would staff a new Statehouse security system. Sanford and Senate leader Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, have been at odds over the security system.
The governor believes the officers' time and service would be better utilized in other ways, while McConnell says security analysis at the Statehouse protects the safety of the employees and the public.
"These and other examples well demonstrate that not only are budget writers refusing to look at much-needed structural reforms, they're actually moving our state backwards in some cases," Sanford said. "As we saw in the case of GM and Chrysler, the dangerous thing about federal money is the fact that it provides an excuse for the people whose decisions got us where we are to continue making those poor decisions.
"We'd urge South Carolinians who care about responsible budgeting and using a portion of the stimulus money to pay down debt to make their voices heard during the budget debate this week."
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the governor should focus his energy elsewhere.
"The governor is so focused on who is going to be in charge of secretary guards that he has completely forgotten about the economy and what really matters," Harrell said.