U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn met with the media on Thursday to discuss the stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill was approved earlier this week and has South Carolina receiving nearly $8 billion to invest in a variety of projects including roads and bridges, education, job creation, and healthcare. Clyburn says he was appalled that there were some governors–including South Carolina’s Mark Sanford–opposing the plan and threatening to refuse federal funds.
Clyburn says, at a meeting in Philadelphia, “All 50 governors were represented but 46 governors were present. Of the 46 governors present, two of them expressed opposition to the recovery package and (they) were Governor (Mark) Sanford and Governor (Rick) Perry of Texas.”
Clyburn, with the help of state legislators including Senator Hugh Leatherman, House Speaker Bob Harrell, and Senator Glenn McConnell, initiated what is being called the “Clyburn Amendment,” allowing South Carolina to bypass the governor and receive those funds, should the governor refuse them. He says he wanted to make sure South Carolina benefits just like every other state.
“The people of South Carolina are paying taxes every day. They are paying their fair share of taxes and you’re telling me that tax money will come down there-if the governor decides not to use it-it goes back up to Washington to be redistributed to these other states? Well that the silliest thing I ever heard in my whole life. There is no way in the world I was going to sit by and let that happen.”
The Texas legislature has adopted the Clyburn Amendment as well.
The money that South Carolina will be receiving has already been allocated to the areas in which in must be used. Clyburn wants it to be understood that money cannot be moved from one project to another. “There is a certain percentage of this money that is going to science. It can be used for nothing else but science. A certain amount is going to small businesses, nothing else but small businesses. A certain amount is going to housing and a certain amount is going to transportation.
“And if you don’t spend it on transportation, you can’t move it from transportation over to some other part of the bill. It’s kind of interesting because when we were debating all of this, one of the things the president wanted was the authority to transfer moneys from one account to another and they went crazy, the legislature did.”
If the state does not use it where it is appropriated, they lose it.
During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama visited schools like J.V. Martin Junior High in Dillon County which is part of the so-called ‘Corridor of Shame’. Clyburn says he has reminded President Obama that those problems have not gone away. “I said, ‘Mr. President, you came to South Carolina. You went to J.V. Martin School having been built around 1850 sitting next to a railroad track where the teacher has to stop teaching when the trains come by because the students can’t hear.’ He said that at his press conference, so I reminded him,” said Clyburn.
“A lot of us have been using J.V. Martin as a political prop throughout the campaign last year. Now Mr. President, I said, it’s time for J.V. Martin to get their props.”
Clyburn says that though Dillon County is not in his district, he will continue to fight for them.