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