South Carolina's highest court has decided not to hear a case asking the court to decide who – Gov. Mark Sanford or the Legislature – controls a disputed $700 million in federal stimulus money.
But the attorneys who filed the case said it leaves open the possibility the court could decide the issue later.
Until lawmakers vote to spend the money, the court wrote in a unanimous 5-0 decision, the court did not want to rule on a "hypothetical or abstract dispute."
"We find this action is not ripe and appropriate for judicial determination unless or until the General Assembly has taken, as it is authorized to do, measures to appropriate the funds at issue," the court wrote. "Until that time, there is no real and substantial controversy upon which this Court can render a declaratory judgment."
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The Senate on Wednesday began floor debate of its $5.7 billion spending plan. Lawmakers, state agencies and school districts have said not including the money in the budget that begins July 1 will result in layoffs and reductions in services. The House included the money in its budget approved last month.
Sanford has said he will not accept the money unless the state pays off debt equivalent to the $700 million in federal aid.
Attorneys for Casey Edwards, the 18-year-old Chapin High School senior who filed the case, said the court's decision left open the possibility of a future suit after the Legislature votes to spend the $350 million – the share of federal money for the next budget year.
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