The Obama administration has rejected Governor Mark Sanford’s request to use $700 million in federal stimulus cash to pay down state debt. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag said in a letter to Sanford that the federal stimulus law doesn’t allow the president to make an exception for that cash. Sanford sought a waiver last week, asking to use $700 million of the $2.8 billion directed to South Carolina to pay off debt rather than use the money to create jobs and avoid deep program cuts. Sanford has criticized the stimulus plan saying it will lead to higher taxes and debt.
State Senate Democratic Leader John Land praised the decision, saying that Sanford knew that his request could not be granted. “Obviously, the governor was making this request just to get publicity,” said Land. “It’s the wrong kind of publicity for South Carolina. What he’s saying to the nation is that, out of all the 50 governors, we have the most far right-wing, reactionary governor in the country.”
According to Land, “(The governor) cares nothing about the unemployed people, cares nothing about the children without health insurance, cares nothing about the people who need nursing home services and can’t get in, and he’s playing a political game setting forth his very rigid, right-wing political philosophy at the expense of the people in this state.”
Sanford is asking the Obama administration to call off the National Democratic Party. It is airing an ad that says the governor is playing politics with the stimulus cash instead of using it for health care, jobs and schools. Land applauds the ads saying, “Well, I think the DNC has just as much right to bring to the attention of the people of South Carolina exactly what Mark Sanford is doing as Mark Sanford has a right to make a fool of himself, I think, by writing the president and asking for a waiver when he knows the president does not have that ability lawfully to issue or grant any kind of waiver.”
Land says he hopes everyone sees the DNC ad.
Also, the South Carolina House has approved a budget that uses $350 million of the stimulus money. Senator Hugh Leatherman is working on a resolution that would prevent Sanford from diverting the money. Land says the General Assembly now has the right to override Sanford, thanks to a provision that was added to the stimulus bill by South Carolina Congressmen Jim Clyburn and John Spratt, so that the money will serve its intended purpose. Land says we must remember “that it is to stimulate the economy, to create jobs and to help people through a very difficult time in our history.”
“We must also remember we are going to be the ones paying it back so we should also be the ones receiving a benefit from that package,” says Land.
Sanford said previously that if the Obama administration denies his request, that the state should not accept the stimulus money.