Gov. Mark Sanford has a point when he says Senate budget writers are exaggerating the crisis he will cause if he turns down $700 million in federal stimulus funds.
The "chaos" scenario laid out last week by the Senate Finance Committee leaves out not only the $350 million that Mr. Sanford wants to block but also $578 million that he already authorized.
And those scary school layoff numbers, it turns out, include job losses that will occur even with the $350 million. (If you're confused, $350 million is the half of the $700 million that the Legislature wants to spend in the coming fiscal year.) Education Superintendent Jim Rex says getting all the stimulus money would mean school districts would have to layoff just (just!) 1,900 employees, instead of the 5,200 without it.
But while you and I can feel a bit misled by all this, Mr. Sanford has no room to complain. If he's not doing as good a job selling a skewed version of reality, it's not for lack of trying. It's because he's trying so hard – and stretching so far – that he finally has lost any hint of credibility.
His nadir came last week when he trotted out a "study" that said taking the cash would cost our state more than 20,000 jobs.
That was pretty transparent, as it overlooked the central fact that the governor seems oblivious to: The question isn't whether the Congress will pass the stimulus package (which is what the study actually seemed to address) or whether South Carolinians will have to pay for it – both are already determined – but whether we will get the money we're already on the hook for.
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