Sanford Problems Cannot be Distraction

S.C. Rep. Tom Young, R-Aiken, doesn’t want the controversy surrounding Gov. Mark Sanford to be a distraction when the General Assembly convenes in January and, in that regard, believes an independent prosecutor should be considered to explore the possible misuse of state funds.

Last month Sanford admitted to an affair with an Argentine woman and has reimbursed the state $3,300 for a taxpayer-funded trip to Argentina.

In a speech at the Rotary Club of Aiken and in a subsequent interview, Young said his constituents have been asking questions about the governor.

SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd announced earlier this month that Sanford violated no laws because no state funds were used on the governor’s trips to see his mistress.

“It’s important that we don’t have a distraction and can focus on real issues,” Young said. “If we need to have something other than SLED look at this, I would welcome that. I’m hearing from constituents who wonder if there was no misuse of state funds, why did the governor write a personal check for $3,300?”

Young is concerned that Lloyd has acknowledged that his conclusion was based in part on Sanford’s own statements to Lloyd.

“There are things we need to get to the bottom of so they won’t be a distraction,” said Young. “We’ve got real issues that deserve attention. We can’t let this be the elephant in the room.”

The key issues, he said, include government restructuring, education, job creation, health care and tax reform. The state needs to give more authority to the governor’s position, said Young.

The legislature-oriented government in South Carolina dates back to 1895, he said. That structure was driven by fear of an African-American becoming governor at a time when the state had a majority African-American population. Nineteen states have rewritten their state constitution; in this state, a two-thirds vote would be needed in the legislature to put the question to the voters.

Current bills would call for the authority of the state’s Budget and Control Board to move to the governor. The governor would also add to his Cabinet as many as six constitutional offices. Only the secretary of state and the superintendent of education have made it to the House floor.

Young introduced a measure in which gubernatorial party nominees would pick a running mate for lieutenant governor. He noted the recent confusion over the governor’s disappearance for five days and how no one, including Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, knew where he was.

“This is perfect climate to get this bill passed,” Young said.

The tax realignment commission that was approved in June must get under way to look at overhauling the entire tax code, he said.

“We have $2.7 million in state sales and user tax exemptions,” said Young. “We’re also too dependent on sales tax revenue.”

That’s a factor in the state’s general appropriations bill of $5.7 billion, which is $1.4 billion less than the previous year, Young said.

State legislators had to contend with a seven-week furlough earlier this year and the time spent on debating the federal stabilization funds. Sanford had resisted those funds, unless they could be utilized in a way that would result in debt retirement.

Young said the governor has written all legislators a letter, apologizing for not working effectively with them to accomplish significant legislation. He has promised to do so in the remainder of his term.

“I know the state needs leadership and consensus building in the governor’s office,” said Young. “We need to move on to issues that will affect everyday South Carolinians.”

Aiken Standard

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