COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wants lawmakers to cut $324 million from the spending plans the Senate approved last week.
Sanford's office on Tuesday released a letter questioning legislators' plans to put $100 million from cracking down on tax scofflaws into the budget to run the state's prisons and other functions and he called on them bank the remaining $175 million the state expects in federal bailout funds to the states.
Monday's letter to Senate and House budget chairmen comes as the House is expected this week to discuss the Senate's version of the budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget bill is likely headed to a conference committee where differences will be worked out before the bill is sent to Sanford for vetoes.
Sanford's three-page letter gives legislators a strong indication of major items he could veto and force the Legislature to muster the votes to override or scramble to fix an out-of-balance budget if the vetoes stand.
Sanford spokesman Ben Fox said he thinks "history is rather indicative that the governor will not necessarily hesitate to veto portions of any budget about which we have grave concerns."
Sanford has consistently opposed relying on increased tax law enforcement. Sanford noted plans to collect $48 million in the current fiscal year's budget appear to have worked out at the Department of Revenue. This year's spending plan calls for collecting $100 million, with the bulk of the money for the state's Corrections Department, Department of Juvenile Justice, prosecutors and the state's Probation and Parole Department.
Sanford said it's unwise to rely on money that the state doesn't have for core functions. "Second, we have seen no evidence to suggest that DOR will be able to collect the same amount of money it did last year — let alone almost double that amount," Sanford said.
He also criticized plans to generate nearly $45 million through a range of increased fees and fines. Those added costs would affect anyone with a car or boat, people buying hunting or fishing licenses and nearly anyone with business before a state court.
"We view these fee increases as backdoor tax increases and believe that raising taxes to cover budget shortfalls is not good policy," Sanford wrote. He said legislators should instead be looking at the budget and finding ways to pay for the government functions that are most needed.
The biggest chunk of spending Sanford wants eliminated for now involves $175 million in federal bailout cash. That money supplements the nearly $5 billion state general fund budget.
Sanford last year lost legal fights in state and federal court to control or reject federal stimulus and stabilization money. He notes that budget writers next year will face a $1 billion shortfall and the $175 million will soften that blow.
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