Proposal Seeks to Force Sanford’s Hand
By Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
Amid swirling questions of constitutionality and the powers of levels of government, South Carolina’s legislature is taking a new way around the governor to get all Recovery Act funding set aside for the state. A joint resolution filed this week by South Carolina Sen. Vincent Sheheen would force the governor to accept all the funds—including the $700 million Gov. Mark Sanford said he is rejecting because he can’t use it to pay down the state’s debt.
Basically, Senate Joint Resolution 691—which would have the force of law if passed—orders the governor to apply for state fiscal stabilization funds available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to Sheheen.
“It makes it a duty of the governor’s office to apply for the funds and accept them into the state,” Sheheen said in an interview with State News Wednesday.
Sheheen is looking to run for governor in 2010, according to The Post and Courier in Charleston.
That approach, Sheheen said, gets around the constitutional and legal questions raised by a recent Congressional Research Service report. That report basically said legislatures may not be able to bypass the governor in certifying a state to receive Recovery Act funding because of constitutional and legal issues.
The report raises questions over whether Congress had the authority to even allow by law state legislatures to override a governor’s rejection of federal stimulus funds and accept the fund formally on their own, according to a Stateline.org article.
According to the Congressional Research Service report, “it does not appear likely that it was intended to significantly reallocate powers between a state legislature and a state executive branch.”
“The problem with that federal provision is it was seen as a federal intervention in the balance of state powers,” Sheheen, who is also an attorney, said. “This is based on state law.”
And according to Sheheen, his proposal doesn’t even deal with the issue cited by the Congressional report because it deals with state law only.
Sanford has already certified South Carolina to receive Recovery Act funding. That certification letter, certifying that South Carolina can getRecovery Act funding, has been submitted to the federal government.
What Sanford is doing now is refusing to request the $700 million in Recovery Act funding that comes under a governor’s control unless he can use it to pay off the state’s debt—although he is technically able to receive those funds should he simply request them, according to The Greenville News.
The Obama administration has repeatedly denied Sanford’s request to use the money for the state’s debt.
The state fiscal stabilization funds are aimed at educational goals under the Recovery Act, according to the federal legislation.
So because the governor has certified the state for a portion of Recovery Act funds within the 45-day window, there really isn’t a timeline involved for the legislature to go after this money, according to Sheheen.
“Tomorrow he could get the money if he wanted to so the timeline … at this point is before we adjourn for the year,” Sheheen said.
And it’s certainly Sheheen’s intention to get the joint resolution passed and on the governor’s desk before the legislature adjourns.
Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s spokesman, told The Greenville News April 9 the governor would disagree with Sheheen’s proposal, which was officially filed April 14.
If the governor vetoes the measure, the South Carolina legislature would have to obtain a two-thirds majority to override the governor’s veto.