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Gov. Mark Sanford’s preemptive lawsuit over who controls a portion of “stimulus” funds hit federal court in Columbia, S.C. today.

In the lawsuit, Sanford’s attorneys claim that “state governors – and only state governors” have the authority to accept the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) portions of the massive federal “stimulus.”

The lawsuit names S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster as the defendant, since McMaster is charged with the enforcement of South Carolina’s laws.

“In the good faith exercise of his executive authority, Governor Sanford has concluded that the acceptance of SFSF funds by South Carolina, which would require his agreement to the various onerous federal educational mandates and unsustainable spending commitments, would further burden South Carolina’s economy and substantially increase the State’s debt in the future, and therefore is contrary to the welfare of the people of South Carolina,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit then reiterates Sanford’s oft-stated position to refuse these funds “unless the General Assembly agrees to use an equivalent amount of state funds to pay down state debt.”

Lawmakers did not do so in their spending plan, and so Sanford vetoed the two sections of their budget that appropriated these disputed funds – vetoes which were quickly overridden.

Previously, lawmakers rejected an alternative budget that would have funded core services without using the SFSF funds.

“Filing this suit is the last thing we want to be doing, but our hand has been forced on this front and letting these actions stand would be both a disservice to taxpayers and set a terrible precedent for future governorships,” Gov. Sanford said in a statement accompanying his lawsuit.

“This is about two fundamental principles, one of which is the principle of separation of powers, something our Founding Fathers thought absolutely key to a well-functioning democracy,” Sanford added. “If a legislature in this state or any other has the ability to arbitrarily change the terms of federal law, then why even have governors? Two, this is ultimately about protecting not just this generation of taxpayers but future generations as well, which is why we’ve pushed for putting stimulus money toward debt repayment.”

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Sanford’s Lawsuit