S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 18, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0918.leader.htm

Governor needs to be a leader
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

SEPT. 18, 2005 - - This governor named Mark - - the millionaire whose claim to fame as a congressman was he slept for six years on a futon to save money - - just what makes him tick?

This question, which keeps surfacing in political circles, mostly leaves analysts, long-time politicians and observers scratching their heads.

"He marches to his own beat," said University of South Carolina historian Walter Edgar. "He did it when he was in Congress and he's done it since he's been governor….We've had some governors who have been very independent, but they were much easier to read. You can't really read Mark."

Gov. Mark Sanford is, if anything, a libertarian enigma. On the surface, he seems to be the penultimate foot soldier for the Grover Norquist notion of making government so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub. (President Bush may be getting past this idea as he now has pledged billions of dollars from the "big" federal government to clean up the mess made by Hurricane Katrina.)

Based on actions over the past three years, Sanford's ideal for a perfect South Carolina would find the state with very limited government, no income taxes, limited roles for public education and little governmental involvement with job creation. It's almost as if all he would want government to do would be to pick up the trash and police the streets - - and both of those things might be too expensive for him.


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As Sanford the libertarian wants to slash and starve government, Sanford the politician realizes it is going to continue and wants to centralize its power under (guess who) the governor's office. That's why you've seen pushes to create a regent's council to centralize the state's higher education bureaucracy. There are proposals to make several constitutional officers become appointed, rather than elected, positions that answer to the governor. And there's been the zeal to privatize Santee Cooper, although the governor still maintains that wasn't his idea.

Fortunately for South Carolina, the governor's office is relatively weak compared to other states. All of the dismantling that Sanford wants to do has to go through the Legislature, which is still smarting about the governor's blatant end run around lawmakers to rewrite how Medicaid works in the state.

With an election year approaching and more than $3.4 million in the bank, Sanford is sitting pretty comfortably in the Governor's Mansion. So in spite of the General Assembly and fellow Republicans that run it, Sanford can crow and strut about how state lawmakers are impeding his plans to make South Carolina a better place, even though he's done little to support that concept.

What South Carolina needs is a governor less concerned about publicity stunts and Hollywood/presidential public relations and more concerned about helping most South Carolinians attain the American dream and get better lives.

Stalwart Republicans are shouting this in his ear, but he seems deaf. As noted by former Commerce Secretary Bob Royall, who mulled but finally dismissed a primary bid against the governor, Sanford needs to "do a much better job, if indeed he will listen to some of the concerns of the business sector and others."

Here's a primer on what Sanford can do to start being effective and less of an annoying place-holder at the Statehouse:

  • Education. Stop trying to privatize public education with a tax credit program which is nothing more than a veiled voucher system.

  • Higher education. Keep pushing for colleges to curb tuition rises, but do it for the right reasons - - to make college affordable for all, not to score points in a zealous power-grab to take away autonomy of colleges.

  • Jobs. Instead of crowing about the 400 new jobs at a Charleston aircraft plant that will cost the state $400 million in incentives, how about steering $400 million to small businesses to help them create jobs all over the state?

  • Economic development. Get serious about it. The state has lost thousands and thousands of jobs on your watch as governor and you still seem to wearing a deer-in-the-headlights look on what to do.

  • Bickering. Stop the tension with the Legislature and get down to work to create real opportunities, not more photo opportunities.

Governor Sanford, your bumper stickers said you'd provide leadership. Where is it?


9/16: Next time

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

To send a message to cartoonist Bill McLemore, write info@statehousereport.com


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Recent feedback:


Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Lawsuit. It's a good thing that somebody has filed a lawsuit contesting Gov. Mark Sanford's proposals to change Medicaid. Somebody's got to stand up for those who need it.

Barber. With the entry of Robert Barber as a Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, Democrats have a solid leader to challenge the GOP primary winner.

Thumbs down

Unemployment. At 6.2 percent, the state still has one of the nation's top unemployment rates. Last month, the state only created 1,400 new jobs.

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