It’s the latest episode in the saga of “The Governor Who Won’t Take the Stimulus Money.”
“So Mr. Chairman, you know I’m a big believer in body language. And I see the body language of the governor as wanting some type of compromise.” That’s Cherokee County Republican Harvey Peeler, before Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Finance Committee.
That led Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman to extended an open invitation to the governor to address the budget writers. Sanford said at Furman University Monday that he would accept the remaining stimulus funds if state lawmakers use an equivalent amount to pay down debt over the next two years. Friday is the deadline for all governors to accept the funds. Leatherman says the governor is welcome any time. “I haven’t had one word from this governor. Have you? Has any member of this committee had a word from the governor to try to resolve this issue? If you have, please let me know. Until the governor comes to us with a proposal, and to me that’s not a proposal I can even pay attention to…come to us with a proposal to resolve this…if the governor wants to come to us and propose a very small paydown to get rid of this debt, now I’ll pay attention to that, say 25 to 30 million dollars, we’ll pay attention to that.”
Leatherman said he didn’t know how it would be possible, to pay down 360 million dollars in debt service, and still meet the needs of South Carolina residents. But meanwhile, White House officials said Wednesday that Sanford may be able to block stimulus funds headed to the state’s general fund.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Greenville Republican Mike Fair talked about how various state agencies have been affected, and how they would be affected if the Governor Sanford refuses hundreds of millions of federal stimulus money. Fair said that the Department of Public Safety stands to loose another 5.2 million dollars, and 36 Highway Patrolmen. But he says the end affect would be even more far-reaching, directly affecting local governments. “They would have to implement a 10-day furlough. Furloughs getting down to the end of the fiscal year, are very difficult. It would impact many local governments, and D.M.V. The lion share of the traffic fines and tickets from the Highway Patrol actually go to local governments.”
Fair said that cuts to the Department of Juvinile Justice have already hurt that agency. “They’ve eliminated Bridge, a substance abuse program. They’ve eliminated Jeep, an employment program. They’ve begun eliminating Teen After-School Centers, for kids trying to be in trouble, and they’re trying to intervene. They’ve closed the Clemson Youth Learning Center For Girls. They currently have more than 400 unfunded vacancies.”
Fair said that if the governor doesn’t take the stimiulus money, D.J.J. will face a further reduuction of 6.1 million dollars, which, among other things, would cause it to close four more wilderness camps, laying off 120 employees. Senator Fair said it’s clear that the federal government will be taking over the agency if the situation there worstens.