Senate passes state budget, next: conference committee

In a 31 to 12 vote, South Carolina legislators approved a $5.7 billion spending plan Wednesday night after debating past midnight. The approval calls for Governor Sanford to request the $350 million in federal stimulus money. Republican Senator Larry Grooms of Berkeley says he was greatly upset with how the budget was handled.
“We’re repeating the same mistakes the folks in Washington made. We’re spending what we don’t have and we have got to get a hold of our fiscal house,” says Grooms.
Grooms says most of the arguments in the session were directly related to the prioritization of how to spread the money for South Carolina. The senator sides with the governor, but had some suggestions for the money of his own.
“I support his fiscal conservatism 100%. It is my belief in contention that we should hold some state dollars in reserve and then if he chooses to draw down those federal stimulus dollars let’s spend them on education and healthcare, but only if we have a corresponding amount of money held in reserve in case state revenues decline,” says Grooms.
Sanford allies, like Grooms, say the governor cannot be ordered to spend the money, for he wants to use it to pay down state debt.
“The federal stimulus dollars could have been used to spread through the budget so that we could draw out state dollars and put for a rainy day, put $200 million aside to prepare ourselves for a budget decline, but we didn’t do that. We spent it all! We spent any reserves we may possibly have and we have set ourselves up for failure,” says Grooms.
The bill moves next to a conference committee, then to the Governor.