S.C. lawmakers urge Sanford to take stimulus funds

The StateMarch 27, 2009 

South Carolina lawmakers on Thursday attempted to turn up the pressure on Gov. Mark Sanford to accept $700 million in federal stimulus money intended to balance state budgets by funding schools and public safety.

Without the money, lawmakers said, the impact on the state budget would be chaos.

But U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said the U.S. Department of Education may send the money to S.C. schools – even if the governor or lawmakers do not request it and argued state lawmakers should include the money in their budget.

A spokesman for Sanford said the governor has not changed his mind about using the money to pay off debt, and asked Senate and House leaders to meet and work out a plan.

The debate went to the House and Senate floors Thursday.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Hugh Leatherman said his committee will draft two budgets next week, one with the money and one without. But without half of the $700 million next year, Leatherman said, schools will lay off teachers, prisons will close and many state agencies could have their budgets virtually eliminated. State colleges, others said, could require double-digit tuition increases.

"We're not sure we can accept the money. That's still to be determined," Leatherman said on the Senate floor. "I'd bet you that will be determined in a courtroom."

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