SC Gov: Use stimulus to help ease state’s debt

SC Gov Mark Sanford:

I don’t believe it’s wise to spend money one doesn’t have.

This is true in our personal lives, it’s true in business and it’s true in government.

While that is my opinion, and one shared by many across this state, it was not the prevailing view on the federal stimulus bill. So as governor I’m now faced with the practical considerations of how to implement a bill I didn’t support.

With the question of whether spending money you don’t have is a good idea behind us, the question now is how the money gets used — and whether it’s a good idea to spend all of it at this time. I don’t believe it’s wise to do so, and for this reason have asked the Obama administration for a waiver to direct 25 percent of it to paying down our state’s debt. Here are the reasons I think this approach makes sense:

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Over the next 24 months our state government is projected to get a $2.8 billion windfall. That’s roughly half of what our state spends every year. If you got a sudden windfall worth half your yearly paycheck, could you really spend it on things that would produce lasting dividends to your family? Or would some of it be misspent if you had to spend that much money that fast? Wouldn’t prudent families take some of the money to pay down the mortgage and credit cards — or even just set it aside for a rainy day?

Most people I know would, and for this reason we have proposed taking the 25 percent that I have discretion over and allocating it to paying down our state’s debt. My administration really can’t impact the other 75 percent that comes through program funding. This $2.1 billion windfall would go to everything from transportation to Medicaid to education — which doesn’t even included tax cuts that equate to several billion dollars more of financial impact to our state. If people really viewed this as their own money rather than so-called “free money out of Washington,” I think they’d be proposing just what we have in this waiver.

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