Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who vetoed his state's legislature request for federal stimulus funds, must go begging to Washington.
So says the Palmetto State's supreme court:
South Carolina's Supreme Court ordered Gov. Mark Sanford on Thursday to request $700 million in federal stimulus money aimed primarily at struggling schools, ending months of wrangling with legislators who accused him of playing politics with people's lives.
The nation's most vocal anti-bailout governor had refused to take the money designated for the state over the next two years, facing down protesters and legislators who passed a budget requiring him to. While other Republican governors had taken issue with requesting money from the $787 billion federal stimulus package, Sanford was the first to defend in court his desire to reject the money.
One argument against Sanford's attempts was that the money would really help struggling schools (have you ever met a school that wasn't struggling?) in heavily minority areas, that his refusal to request stimulus dollars was really a way of punishing black voters who don't vote for him anyway. As the AP notes, that's simply not credible:
The former congressman objected to the stimulus money on several levels that were consistent with his small government, anti-spending stances. He claims it will devalue the dollar and increase debt. When legislators pushed for the cash, Sanford said they were overstepping their reach into his executive powers.
Sanford also noted that accepting stimulus funds required the states to change various programs, including unemployment benefits, in ways that would put them on the hook for much bigger payouts long after the stimulus dollars dried up. No pol is perfect, that's for damn sure. But Sanford is one of the few, both as a U.S. representative and a governor, who is totally consistent in his calls for lower taxes AND lower spending. He actually asked his state to cut spending by the amount of the stimulus dollars they brought in, which the legislature refused to do.
Matt Welch has been on fire revealing how fake most state spending crunches are: How in virtually every instance, shortfalls are because of massive increases in spending over the past five or more years (typically between 35 percent and 50 percent!), not because of revenue shortfalls. And that most of the cuts that are proposed as a part of a supposed return to fiscal sanity are just B.S.
That's certainly the case in South Carolina, where the state will now be able to access $350 million for the fiscal year that starts on July 1 (the other half of their stimulus dough will be available in the next FY). As Fitsnews points out, out of a total spending plan of $20.7 billion (the second-largest in S.C. history), that means that state agences can now avoid a whopping 1.6 percent cut in their budgets. Who could ever find budget fat amidst so much freaking blubber? Read a longer analysis of state spending patterns here.
In an era where companies are shedding 10 percent, 20 percent or more of work forces and cutting costs dramatically, the miniscule cuts proposed by state governments go beyond laughable and has become downright insulting.
Watch Reason.tv's take on California's budget crisis and then take a few minutes to Google your own state's revenues and budgets over the past few years. You will be amazed at how closely the basic problem—massive spending increases over and above inflation and population growth—are the problem, not temporary downturns in the economy.