Gov. Mark Sanford made the following statement after the South Carolina General Assembly took up budget vetoes this week, so far sustaining 51 of 107 vetoes, including the entire section of the budget depending on now doubtful Medicaid money from Washington D.C. The up to $261 million saved from these sustained vetoes can now be used to soften the blow from a looming billion dollar budget shortfall next year.
"Given that legislators plan to return again to Columbia at the end of June to close out this year's legislative session, I'd ask the people of South Carolina to join me in making three requests:
"First, that people ask their Senator to awaken and respond to the financial reality our state and nation face. You cannot spend money you do not have, and for that reason I'd also ask South Carolinians to commend their House members for committing to a more fiscally responsible path this week by sustaining the most budget vetoes since Carroll Campbell and the largest total veto dollar amount in state history. In doing so they are setting aside the most money ever in state history for roughly a billion dollar budget shortfall coming next year.
"Second, that people ask in particular their Senators to reverse a disappointing decision they made yesterday to increase their own Senate budget by $4.3 million -- a 52 percent increase. This perplexing $4.3 million decision laid down a discouraging marker of where some leaders in Columbia believe taxpayers' dollars should be spent. The idea of increasing the Senate budget by 52 percent seems wrong especially while other agencies are seeing painful cuts. Indeed, this money could have funded 72 more troopers on the road, 64 more teachers in the classroom, or 184 more social services case workers in South Carolina.
"Third, that people join our Administration, along with the 80 members of the House of Representatives who agreed with us, in urging the cash-flush Budget and Control Board to tighten its belt and do more with less -- just as individuals, families and businesses are doing across South Carolina. With $1.4 billion in cash reserves, and roughly $70 million in unrestricted cash now sitting in their bank accounts, we're confident that the Board can continue its current operations -- and we're committed to working with them on this front. For the Board's leadership to suggest otherwise, and even threaten to fire employees or cut essential services, is simply short sighted -- and we believe irresponsible. The Board has the flexibility, legal authority and precedent to transfer a portion of their mountainous cash reserves and do their jobs. South Carolinians deserve nothing less."