San­ford to re­ject funds, sees strings at­tached South Carolina gov­er­nor fears too much fed­eral con­trol

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Days af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama sin­gled out a run-down school in South Carolina as a rea­son the fed­eral gov­ern­ment needs to get in­volved, the state’s gov­er­nor, Mark San­ford, says the prob­lem isn’t money, it’s the gov­ern­ment’s mo­nop­oly over pub­lic schools.

Mr. San­ford, in a meet­ing with ed­i­tors and re­porters at The Wa s h i n g t o n Times, also an­nounced he will re­ject at least a por­tion of the funds from Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic-stim­u­lus bill.

Mr. San­ford, a Repub­li­can and one of the con­ser­va­tive gov­er­nors who reg­u­larly draws spec­u­la­tion about a 2012 pres­i­den­tial bid, took is­sue with the les­son Mr. Obama drew dur­ing his ad­dress to Congress from Ty’Sheoma Bethea, an eighth­grade stu­dent at J.V. Martin Ju­nior High School in Dil­lon, S.C. She wrote ask­ing Congress to fund re­con­struc­tion of her crum­bling school.

“We have a sys­tem that locks a kid into the school district of gov­ern­ment’s choice, not the in­di­vid­ual par­ent or child’s choice, and so the irony is cer­tain kids are re­quired to go to that very school and given no choice as to other op­tions,” Mr. San­ford said.

He also said that since the gov­ern­ment is bor­row­ing the money for the stim­u­lus bill, Miss Bethea will end up pay­ing her own bill.

“We’re not talk­ing about tak­ing money out of a gi­ant piggy bank in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. This is money that’s go­ing to be handed to the next gen­er­a­tion. So in fact, the kid is go­ing to pay twice — once with an in­fe­rior ed­u­ca­tion; and two, with a bill in fix­ing this school,” he said.

Miss Bethea’s let­ter has be­come a po­lit­i­cal is­sue back home, where South Carolina Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader John Land, a Demo­crat, two weeks ago called on Mr. San­ford to visit the school. He told the Charleston Post and Courier that the gov­er­nor should “cut back on his na­tional travel sched­ule and look within his own state at the prob­lems that can be ad­dressed with re­cov­ery dol­lars from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.”

Mr. San­ford played down the pos­si­bil­ity of a pres­i­den­tial run — “I don’t think so,” he said — but laid out a lim­ited-gov­ern­ment phi­los­o­phy he said Repub­li­cans must pur­sue. He said that core value is more im­por­tant to his party re­gain­ing strength over the next four years than to “ap­peal more to mi­nori­ties and to His­pan­ics and to use tech­nol­ogy more and make sure you have the right an­swer to ev­ery prob­lem that ails you un­der the sun.”

Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael S. Steele re­cently told The Times he is de­ter­mined to broaden the party’s out­reach to mi­nori­ties. Mr. San- ford said Mr. Steele’s ef­forts will be part of a so­lu­tion, but said it’s just one voice.

“The beauty of the Repub­li­can Party is we’re dis­jointed,” he said.

Mr. San­ford was point­edly crit­i­cal of the $787 bil­lion stim­u­lus bill Mr. Obama signed into law, say­ing it put the coun­try on the “tip­ping point” be­tween the U.S. model of cap­i­tal­ism and the “Euro­pean model with a lot in the way of so­cial trans­fer and wel­fare pay­ments.”

He said he will join other gov­er­nors who said they will re­ject part of the funds be­cause strings at­tached to un­em­ploy­ment in­sur- ance com­pen­sa­tion money are too much to bear.

“I haven’t pub­licly de­clared it, but I can tell you on or off the record that, I can tell you where we end up, which is we’re not go­ing to be tak­ing it,” the gov­er­nor said.

Mr. San­ford re­jected the chal­lenge of some Democrats that he re­frain from us­ing any of the money be­cause he didn’t sup­port the bill.

“When I was in Congress, I was along­side a bunch of Democrats on say the House side or the Se­nate side who fought against tax cuts, worked against tax cuts,” he said. “And yet when it went down, they did not go back to their home district or their home state and say, ‘Look, you guys need not to ac­cept this tax cut, be­cause if you do it will com­pletely un­der­mine the philo­soph­i­cal point I was try­ing to make in rep­re­sent­ing you.’ ”

The gov­er­nor punc­tu­ated his in­ter­view with me­taphors and with oc­ca­sional ref­er­ences to the Bi­ble or church, in­clud­ing putting the cur­rent eco­nomic cy­cle in con­text.

“There have been re­ces­sions and de­pres­sions across time. You can go back as far as the Bi­ble and look at seven skinny cows and seven fat cows com­ing out of the Nile. This no­tion of cy­cles to life is not a new thing,” he said.

And he saw dan­gers in the types of action be­ing taken or con­sid­ered, such as pro-union mea­sures and buy-Amer­ica pro- vi­sions, call­ing them “a first step in that di­rec­tion” to­ward an­other Great De­pres­sion.

Mr. San­ford said he would “throw the last ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der the bus” on busi­ness reg­u­la­tion, which the gov­er­nor said has cre­ated an un­cer­tain at­mos­phere that has par­a­lyzed com­pa­nies, a trend he said has con­tin­ued un­der Mr. Obama.

“No­body has any idea what the rules are, go­ing for­ward,” he said. “When I talk to busi­ness peo­ple across my state, there is ab­so­lute un­cer­tainty as to who gets bailed out next, who doesn’t get bailed out next, what in­dus­try gets bailed out.”

He said for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s legacy would be one of bad trade-offs, such as pass­ing a pre­scrip­tion-drug pro­gram as part of Medi­care, a move for which Mr. San­ford said Mr. Bush gained no po­lit­i­cal credit from lib­er­als while cav­ing on con­ser­va­tive core be­liefs.

The gov­er­nor did de­fend Repub­li­can con­gres­sional leaders for tak­ing a stand on the stim­u­lus bill, con­tra­dict­ing Utah Gov. Jon Hunts­man Jr., a fel­low Repub­li­can who last week told The Times that his party’s House and Se­nate leaders were “in­con­se­quen­tial.”

Mr. San­ford said he gave the leaders credit “for hold­ing every­one to­gether” on the vote — House Repub­li­cans were unan­i­mous in op­pos­ing the bill, and only three Repub­li­can se­na­tors voted for it.

MARY F. CALVERT/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

South Carolina Gov. Mark San­ford

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