Sanford submits record high state budget proposal

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) – South Carolina governor Mark Sanford released the seventh and final executive budget of his administration Thursday, outlining his view of how best lawmakers should spend the state's money.

The budget, deemed "balanced [and] activity-based" in a release by the governor's office, called for $5.84 billion in spending for the 2010-11 Fiscal Year, which begins in June.

The governor's proposal called for $255 million in savings that would then be re-invested in "core government functions," namely education, public safety, health care and job creation. The proposed savings came from school consolidations in areas where the systems are fragmented, eliminating funding for state-paid lobbyists and enacting state employee furloughs.

Sanford said the budget also addressed the federal stimulus money that would "evaporate" in 2011.

"The financial challenges created by a global economic slowdown, and correspondingly our state's declining revenues, have in many ways been exacerbated by the fact that federal stimulus dollars, used this year to plug state budget holes here in South Carolina and nationwide, are fast drying up," Sanford said.

Sanford's budget also recommended realignments in agency and higher education that he said will result in $17 million in savings, as well as the creation of a Sunset Commission to eliminate "archaic and oftentimes expensive laws which no longer serve their original purpose."

However, as a part of his proposed education spending, Sanford set aside $4 million for USC-Lancaster, Salkehatchie and Union, three schools he recommended for closure in the 2009-10 budget proposal.

Sanford's outline for education includes more than $218 million for scholarships and grants and $34 million to First Steps, a program that aims to ready children under the age of five for school.

The proposal, including federal funds and state fees, topped $21 billion, the highest total budget in South Carolina history although the state's general fund budget has been cut by more than $1.5 billion in the last two years.

"Over the course of this Administration, the total state budget will have expanded from around $15.5 billion in FY 2003 to a projected $22.8 billion in FY 2011 – and increase of almost 47 percent," said Sanford in the release.

The governor's proposal for the 2010 budget was delivered to the General Assembly Thursday afternoon, but the document carries with it no legal weight and state lawmakers can choose to follow the recommendations of the governor or ignore the suggestions completely.

"That said, we think this balanced budget, while including many incredibly tough decisions, offers a blueprint not only for budget-writers, but policymakers across state government as well," said Sanford.

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