May 26, 2009

McMaster: S.C. stimulus case unique in nation

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster said Tuesday that the Supreme Court dispute over the state's share of federal stimulus money is a unique case with no precedents and could have long-term implications about the balance of power in the state.

McMaster responded to a suit filed Friday by two Midlands students asking the state Supreme Court if lawmakers can force Gov. Mark Sanford to request $700 million in federal stimulus money over the next two budget years. Sanford has refused to accept the money unless an equal amount of state debt is paid off.

McMaster said his office has found no other cases nationwide with the same circumstances that now are before the state Supreme Court. He said the issues also are different from frequently cited past disputes between lawmakers and the governor. Specifically, McMaster said, the court must decide if the Legislature can spend money not yet in the state treasury.

"I have grave concerns that the result of these cases may weaken the office of governor to the point of potential irrelevancy," McMaster said. "The circumstances are extraordinary and unparalleled in state history. Fundamental constitutional questions are at stake."

McMaster had until noon today to respond to the lawsuits. He said he has received no indications from the court when or if the case might be heard.

-- John O'Connor

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