- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 30, 2009

A federal judge on Monday will review arguments involving a complex South Carolina legal battle over how to spend $700 million of the state’s federal stimulus money.

Friday was the deadline for Gov. Mark Sanford, Attorney General Henry McMaster, Education Superintendent Jim Rex, a school administrators group and a pair of students to file arguments in three lawsuits tied to forcing the governor to request the stimulus cash.

Mr. Sanford, the nation’s only governor suing to block federal bailout money for his state’s budget, wants two state cases merged with the lawsuit he filed against Mr. McMaster. And he wants the cases switched to federal court from the state court.

The $787 billion federal stimulus package passed by Congress this year would send $2.8 billion to South Carolina state agencies and programs during the next two years. Of that total, Mr. Sanford says he only has the authority to request about $700 million earmarked for schools and colleges.

The governor also said he won’t ask for the money unless he can use an equal amount to offset the state debt, an idea the White House has rejected.

The state legislature recently passed a budget that required the governor to request the money. After legislators overrode Mr. Sanford’s veto of the budget, the governor immediately sued in federal court to keep the state attorney general from enforcing the law.

Two students - a high school senior and a University of South Carolina law student - jointly filed a suit against the state demanding the governor accept the federal money and spend it for schools and colleges.

The South Carolina Association of School Administrators, which filed a similar suit against the state, has asked U.S. District Court judge Joe Anderson to reject Mr. Sanford’s suit and send it back to state court.

Mr. Sanford says he wants the cases tried in federal court because they involve federal money. But opponents say the governor only wants the switch because he’s more likely to find a sympathetic ear with a U.S. District judge than with a state Supreme Court judge appointed by state legislators.

All sides said a July 1 deadline for states to request federal stimulus money means a quick resolution is preferred.

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