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Sanford Pushes Budget, Expresses Opposition to New Lake Marion Bridge

Wed September 27, 2006 - Southeast Edition
CEG



COLUMBIA, SC (AP) Gov. Mark Sanford plans to ask lawmakers for approximately $400 million in new spending in the 2007-08 state budget, however agencies have asked for approximately twice that amount.

The drawn-out budgeting process begins with the governor giving his recommendations to the General Assembly. In recent years, though, it’s boiled down to Sanford’s plan being mostly scrapped by legislators who hammer out compromises in the last days of the session.

As he began meeting with agency heads Sept. 18, Sanford said he would seek approximately a 6.6 percent increase in the $6.6-billion budget. The governor imposes a voluntary cap limiting increases to the rate of population growth plus inflation.

Sanford heard from agencies including the Transportation Department and Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism — both of which are seeking increased funding next year.

Among the requests was money for roads and bridges, mass transit and tripling state tourism during the next 15 years.

“By 2020 … that would create 594,000 jobs,” said Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Chad Prosser of his plan to grow the state’s largest industry.

Transportation Director Elizabeth Mabry said state road construction funding could shrink from $800 million to $250 million annually during the next two years because of a decrease in fuel use combined with rising construction costs.

She said the agency also wants to cut some of the 42,000 mi. of state-maintained roadways that “don’t serve transportation purposes,” although she didn’t specify which roads.

The Republican governor told Mabry that Transportation officials should oppose the proposed $150-million bridge and road project over Lake Marion that is backed by U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC.

Clyburn has said the project will spur development in the area, but Sanford said the money could be used more effectively on other projects.

Mabry described the project as a “congressional high priority.” Sanford disagreed, saying it’s “one person saying, ’This is what I want.’”

Sanford also asked Mabry about privatizing maintenance services, but she said most contractors aren’t interested.

Sanford likely will release his plan in December, and legislators will begin drafting their version when they return to the Statehouse in January.