Politics & Government

Sanford to file lawsuit over stimulus

Gov. Mark Sanford announced Wednesday night he would file a federal lawsuit over control of federal stimulus money on the day the General Assembly compelled him to spend the disputed money.

The General Assembly voted Wednesday to override Sanford's veto of the $5.7 billion state budget and $350 million in federal stimulus aid Sanford controls. That set up a legal showdown over whether lawmakers can, through the budget, force Sanford's hand.

Both the House and Senate, needing a two-thirds vote, agreed to overturn Sanford. The vote gives the spending plan that will fund state government beginning July 1 the force of law. And by including the stimulus money, Sanford, who has refused to tap the stimulus money unless lawmakers agree to pay an equal amount on debt, must spend the money. The disputed $350 million in stimulus money is intended to help local schools and law enforcement balance their budgets. Lawmakers gave Sanford five days to accept the money.

Ultimately, the stimulus showdown could be settled by judges. Sanford filed a federal lawsuit. A Chapin High School student filed a state lawsuit last month to force Sanford to spend the stimulus money on education. The S.C. Supreme Court rejected that suit, saying it was too early to file. But the timing might be more appropriate now, as Sanford and lawmakers are now legally at odds over the money. She said she plans to refile that suit.

Sanford has gotten national praise from conservatives over his opposition to the stimulus, decrying the money as irresponsible borrowing and spending. Legislators said the state would risk mass teacher layoffs and possibly the closing of a state prison if it doesn't use the money to close holes in the budget wrought by a national recession.