Governor: Budget Unconstitutional, Could Lead to Legal Challenge
GOVERNOR SAYS A SUIT MAY BE NEEDED OVER CONSTITUTIONALITY OF BUDGET
Governor Mark Sanford today said the General Assembly may have broken the law in passing a budget they knew to be out of balance - and therefore unconstitutional - and that doing so could open the state up to a legal challenge.
In budget hearings earlier this year, the Education and Corrections departments both told the legislature that next year's budget would force them to run a deficit, to the tune of $28 million. In fact, when warned repeatedly about potential deficits at the Department of Corrections, Senator Hugh Leatherman suggested multiple times in an April 2 meeting that the agency run a deficit.
In the state Constitution, Article X, Section 7(a) requires the General Assembly "to provide by law for a budget process to insure that annual expenditures of state government do not exceed annual state revenue." Since the legislature has now passed a budget in which they know and are fully aware this requirement will not be met, the governor said today that the budget in effect breaks the law.
"There's no way around the fact that if the General Assembly has passed a budget that they know will require deficits, then it's not a balanced budget, period," Gov. Sanford said. "We have real concerns about the legality of this budget - and at this point, we're not convinced that a lawsuit would be a bad thing, given that it may indeed be the only way to prevent the legislature from engaging in this kind of recklessness in the future."
Last week, the governor vetoed 69 items from the legislature's spending plan, for a total of $72 million, saying that money should be put toward the anticipated deficits at Education and Corrections. Of those 69 vetoes, the legislature only sustained five that had implications for the state's general fund, for a total of $369,000.