South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has filed suit against South Carolina Attorney Gen. Henry McMaster over action taken by the state legislature which would have required the governor to accept federal stimulus money.
Sanford has been fighting a battle over the money for months now, taking heat from those in the Palmetto State who feel that the funds could help struggling schools and could assist in stemming the state’s above-average unemployment, while himself arguing that the money would handcuff the state into funding unsustainable programs itself after the federal money runs out.
Accepting the federal cash, Sanford stated in the court documents, “would require his agreement to these onerous federal educational mandates and unsustainable spending commitments, would further burden South Carolina’s economy and substantially increase the state’s debt in the future and therefore is contrary to the welfare of the people of South Carolina.”
I happen to agree with him. Not only would it commit the state to perpetuate new programs–likely through tax increases–initially funded by the stimulus package after the stimulus money runs out, but it would open the Palmetto State up to federal control. For example, just look at the fiscally floundering state of California, where the federal government, essentially on behalf of the Service Employees International Union, recently threatened to withhold billions of dollars in federal stimulus money if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went ahead with a plan to cut pay for home health care workers.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, stimulus money which was intended to go toward shovel-ready projects that would create jobs, the funds instead are going to expand domestic violence programs and to pay income tax refunds. However, when Sanford proposed that, if he were to take stimulus cash, he wanted to use $700 million of such funds to pay down state debt, he was rebuked by journalists and had his request refused by the White House. See? It’s not about stimulus. It’s about control.
Sanford is right. With the federal government, there is no such thing as “no strings attached,” and one-by-one it seems that other governors are beginning to see the light. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty took the money yet now has admitted that he wished he hadn’t. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is in the middle of a legal battle over energy efficiency-related funds she turned away.
It’s a nightmare. Just like the bank bailouts were more about control than anything else (otherwise, the federal government would allow the banks to repay the money), the stimulus money is driven by the same motives. For this administration, crisis lends itself to control.
This lawsuit is more than just a governor suing a state attorney general. This lawsuit is about federalism, about state sovereignty, about the balance of power not just in South Carolina, but from coast to coast. And, as a future resident of the Palmetto State, I support my future governor 100 percent.