Commentary: S.C. lawmakers right to challenge Sanford on stimulus

This editorial appeared in The Rock Hill Herald.

State lawmakers were correct to force a showdown with Gov. Mark Sanford on requesting $350 million in federal stimulus money. The Legislature appears to be in a good position to order the governor to do what's best for the state.

Sanford has been at odds with legislative leaders over whether he will request $350 million this year – $700 million total over two years – in federal stimulus money targeted primarily at education spending. While lawmakers want the governor to accept the money under the terms mandated by Congress, he refuses to do so unless the money is used to reduce state debt.

The White House has twice rejected that proposal, saying the money must be spent for the specified purpose of funding education. And lawmakers have argued that finding $700 million in the budget to pay down debt would result in drastic cuts to other state agencies and services.

But Sanford has refused to budge. In an effort to clear the impasse, some Sanford allies devised an alternative budget that included deep spending cuts to produce about $200 million to repay federal loans covering the state's jobless benefit checks.

The move was meant to mollify Sanford so he would request the federal cash. But lawmakers rejected the alternative, opting instead to approve a $5.7 billion budget, which included the stimulus money and put them on a collision course with the governor.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Rock Hill Herald.