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Sanford takes last shot at reforms

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Gov. Mark Sanford didn’t make any political promises about the remainder of his term when he addressed the Murrells Inlet Rotary Club on Tuesday.

He has very definite ideas about what he wants to see accomplished in the last year of his governorship, but at this point in his career he said he’s seeing things differently than he ever has before.

And he knows he needs help to achieve his goals.

“It’s not how hard I work” that’s going to make a difference, Sanford told a full house at Capt. Dave’s Dockside restaurant. “What will determine change in politics is how hard y’all work.”

He led off with an apology, alluding to his five-day disappearance to Argentina in June and ensuing admission of an extramarital affair. Then he asked his constituents to take action to help their state.

“There are changes we can make in this legislative session,” Sanford said. “There are changes we can make to the way we spend in government and there are some additional tools to add to the toolkit in regard to jobs and the economy.”

And that, he said, is why he hasn’t stepped down as governor.

“I’m still here, because in some ways I think we have some opportunities that frankly we haven’t had in a long time.”

He asked for support in restructuring the state government by eliminating the state’s Budget and Control Board and establishing a Cabinet-level Department of Administration to take over the function of the five-member board.

South Carolina is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow the governor to head its administrative agency, instead giving the job to five people, two of whom are legislators. And that system has resulted in state spending 38 percent higher than in other states.

Looking around the room, Sanford said he doubted anyone could name the members of the board and that creates a lack of accountability.

“In the world of administration, the buck has to stop somewhere,” he said. “In South Carolina, one of the real problems in the state is that it doesn’t.”

That could be changed and it could be done quickly with enough public support.

“It’s a 51 percent vote,” Sanford said. “If enough of us made noise, it could happen this year and I would ask for your help on that.”

He also advocated having the governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket.

Under the present system, it’s possible to have a Democrat governor and a Republican lieutenant governor, as was the case when Sanford’s predecessor, Jim Hodges, was in office.

“Can you imagine a system where the president wants to go one in one direction and the vice president wants to go in another?” Sanford asked. “That’s not a way to get things done.”

Sanford also called for a vote to let the public decide if they want the offices of secretary of state, commissioner of agriculture and superintendent of education to be appointed by the governor.

The process to shorten the ballot would take longer, than creating a Department of Administration, but Sanford said he believes it’s important the public be able to decide the management style of their government.

“I’m not asking any representative to take a stand on this one way or the other; just to send it back to the people for them to decide,” he said.

He recalled the lottery debate, in which even those who said they were morally opposed to a state lottery agreed the matter should be put to a vote by the people, because it was such an important issue.

He said the state’s constitutional framework deserves the same consideration.

If the vote determines the public wants to keep electing people to those offices, Sanford said he’s fine with that, but it should be left up to them.

Sanford said the state constitution, drafted in 1895, is obsolete and prevents the state’s top official from being able to carry out many of the traditional executive and administrative functions that should be addressed by someone in that position. He called it a “racist constitution” designed to limit the power of the office “so that even if a black man was elected, he wouldn’t have any responsibility anyway.”

“It’s an insane way to run the government,” Sanford said.

Sanford also addressed spending limits. Whether one’s political views are Republican or Democrat, “some kind of sustainable ban on spending makes sense,” he said.

Spending at the current level cannot continue, he said, arguing to put spending limits in place that “would get us closer to what you see in a prudently managed household or business.”

Spending should be linked with growth of the economy, eliminating a peak and valley system that uses taxpayer dollars ineffectually by wasting money during the peaks and “cutting past muscle, right into the bone” during valley years, he said.

Sanford asked the group to talk, visit and send e-mails to friends and family to get them onboard.

For folks who didn’t agree with all his ideas, Sanford asked them to pick one thing they did agree with and “be a squeaky wheel.”

For the most part, Sanford’s words seemed to be met with support, but Mary Jeffcoat of Myrtle Beach told the governor that, while she appreciates his commitment to restructuring, she doesn’t have any energy for that right now. All her energy is focused on trying to make payroll and provide health care for her employees.

“I’d like to see state leaders put restructuring aside for a while and focus on building the economy,” she said.

Sanford said the actions he is calling for are tied to economic development. The cost and efficiency of state government are part of the costs businesses pay, he said.

Sarah Small of Surfside Beach didn’t stay to hear Sanford speak, but she also wanted to talk to the governor about jobs.

She worked in housekeeping at Premier Resort at Barefoot Landing, but lost her job, along with about 100 other people, when the resort went bankrupt.

As she struggled to find help with her mortgage, she said she discovered there wasn’t an agency designed to provide that kind of help.

Small went to the restaurant before the Rotary meeting to present the governor with a letter she had written about the need for such an agency. She said he promised to read it and look into the matter.

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