Financial crisis Sanford's focus

Governor Mark Sanford

COLUMBIA — The woeful financial situation in South Carolina was front and center Wednesday during Gov. Mark Sanford's annual State of the State address to legislators, many of whom were left wanting more details on how to solve the problems.

The Republican governor did not miss the opportunity to remind the Legislature that they did not heed his warnings during his first six years in office when he urged them to show better spending restraint.

"We face economic conditions in our country, and by extension our state, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930s," Sanford said in his prepared remarks. "As most of you know, I have believed for a very long time that this day would come, and as a consequence I have fought with many in your leadership on spending."

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said he was disappointed the governor did not directly address the jobless rate or offer suggestions on how to fix it.

"I didn't hear anything about the unemployment rate, or being at 8 1/2 percent or being third in the country in unemployment," Harrell said.

Sanford's speech did, however, offer his perspective on what the state needs to do to lure and retain more businesses by phasing out corporate income taxes, updating the unemployment agency so it generates better data and improving education so South Carolina can better compete.

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, said Sanford's address overall was a recap of old ideas, such as the renewed call for tax reform and spending limitations, concepts that McConnell said he would also like to pursue.

McConnell and Rep. Chip Limehouse, also a Charleston Republican, both wanted to hear some of the governor's ideas about how to re-energize the State Ports Authority, which is at risk of losing its biggest client. Mc Connell and Limehouse also said they wanted to hear more about what Sanford would do to fund the state's roads and bridges.

"It was vintage Mark Sanford in terms of lower taxes, less government and spending limitations," Limehouse said. He said he respects and backs Sanford's position on fiscal conservatism.

Camden Sen. Vincent Sheheen delivered the Democratic message, following Sanford's address. Sheheen said the state cannot allow today's economic strife to be used as an excuse to fulfill an anti-government agenda.

Democrats are concerned that doing away with corporate income taxes would put more of a burden on individuals, and the party leaders strongly disagree with any notion that the South Carolina should sit back while other states engage in a nationwide recovery effort.

"Are you satisfied with the direction we are headed in South Carolina. No, and neither am I," Sheheen said.

Sanford and the Legislature's Republican leadership have squabbled over issues that don't matter, Sheheen said. Democrats want job growth, better education, lower health insurance rates, environmental protections, affordable colleges and regulations on payday lenders.

In addition to his assessment of economic conditions during the address, Sanford asked the Legislature to focus its efforts this year in five key areas.

The chief executive said he wants to see the income taxes set at a flat rate in addition to eliminating the corporate income tax and restructuring state government by creating a new Department of Administration and the appointment of, rather than election of, certain constitutional officers.

Sanford said the state needs more transparency by expanding open records laws, a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbyists, and other measures. Spending limits and better education, including having state dollars follow children to private schools, rounded out the list of Sanford's priorities.

"I didn't hear anything about the unemployment rate, or being at 8 1/2 percent or being third in the country in unemployment," Harrell said.

Sanford's speech did, however, offer his perspective on what the state needs to do to lure and retain more businesses by phasing out corporate income taxes, updating the unemployment agency so it generates better data and improving education so South Carolina can better compete.

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, said Sanford's address overall was a recap of old ideas, such as the renewed call for tax reform and spending limitations, concepts that McConnell said he would also like to pursue.

McConnell and Rep. Chip Limehouse, also a Charleston Republican, both wanted to hear some of the governor's ideas about how to re-energize the State Ports Authority, which is at risk of losing its biggest client. McConnell and Limehouse also said they wanted to hear more about what Sanford would do to fund the state's roads and bridges.

"It was vintage Mark Sanford in terms of lower taxes, less government and spending limitations," Limehouse said. He said he respects and backs Sanford's position on fiscal conservatism.

Camden Sen. Vincent Sheheen delivered the Democratic message following Sanford's address. Sheheen said the state cannot allow today's economic strife to be used as an excuse to fulfill an anti-government agenda.

Democrats are concerned that doing away with corporate income taxes would put more of a burden on individuals, and the party leaders strongly disagree with any notion that the South Carolina should sit back while other states engage in a nationwide recovery effort.

"Are you satisfied with the direction we are headed in South Carolina? No, and neither am I," Sheheen said.

Sanford and the Legislature's Republican leadership have squabbled over issues that don't matter, Sheheen said. Democrats want job growth, better education, lower health insurance rates, environmental protections, affordable colleges and regulations on payday lenders.

In addition to his assessment of economic conditions during the address, Sanford asked the Legislature to focus its efforts this year in five key areas.

The chief executive said he wants to see the income taxes set at a flat rate in addition to eliminating the corporate income tax and restructuring state government by creating a new Department of Administration and the appointment of, rather than election of, certain constitutional officers.

Sanford said the state needs more transparency by expanding open records laws, a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbyists, and other measures. Spending limits and better education, including having state dollars follow children to private schools, rounded out the list of Sanford's priorities.