By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
March 11, 2009 – South Carolina’s top congressional lawmaker is furious with the governor for rejecting stimulus dollars which would allow the state to create jobs, increase unemployment benefits and offer tax credits for college tuition.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) issued a statement when he got word that Republican Gov. Mark Sanford announced he would not take the money allocated for his state in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Thursday President Barack Obama has invited each state’s point person for the stimulus package to Washington to be part of a roundtable discussion on how the money should be spent. The meeting will be lead by Vice President Joe Biden, who will head up the spending oversight. But it looks like when attendance is taken South Carolina will be absent.
“We waited three weeks after the recovery package was signed into law for Gov. Sanford to unveil, with great fanfare, yet another political chess move towards the 2012 presidential race,” Clyburn charged.
Sanford has been very outspoken and made a point to define himself in opposition to President Barack Obama. This political move has earned him national media attention in prominent publications and started the buzz that he’s eyeing a presidential run in 2012.
Sanford is doing what several conservative members of the House and other Republican governors had threatened to do – decline their portion of the stimulus. But other than “fanfare” it’s not clear this move will decrease the deficit or overall spending by the feds.
Clyburn believes it will have the opposite impact and said economists agree the investments in this recovery package are necessary to save and create jobs, and stimulate the economy.
“As a matter of fact, while prudent in times of economic stability, paying down debt in a time of recession has the opposite effect; it deepens and lengthens economic downturns,” Clyburn contends.
South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 10.4 percent, and reaches double-digits in 35 of the state’s counties. Clyburn charges the governor is doing this for political gain only and without thought for the folks needing this assistance in the state.
African Americans make up 28.7 percent of the population and vote Democratic, however, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried the state in the 2008 presidential race. “Governor Sanford will sleep well at night because he has improved his ‘conservative record’ and raised his national profile,” Clyburn said.
The only hope now for South Caroline is for the South Carolina Legislature to pass a resolution that will allow them to claim the funds; that’s what Clyburn is recommending.
It’s not clear how the White House is taking this latest strategy, but I’m waiting to hear from them.