Sanford releases $5B plan

Mark Sanford

COLUMBIA — State workers would take more unpaid time off, colleges would lose at least $68 million and the state would end funding for its museum and arts programs under the $5 billion budget proposal outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford released Tuesday.

Sanford took time in his final executive budget to snipe at the legislators he blames for the more than $800 million shortfall they must deal with next week. That shortfall is a mix of slower state tax collection and the loss of one-time federal bailout cash.

It's unclear how much influence Sanford's last budget will have. His last two years in office have been overshadowed by his affair with an Argentine woman that ended his political career, and his detailed budgets over the years ended up being used as doorstops.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper said legislators embraced some of Sanford's spending reductions in past years, but with others they couldn't duplicate Sanford's math and those ideas went nowhere, Cooper said.

In his final budget, Sanford rejected Cooper's cost-saving suggestion that the state cut up to 10 days from school calendars to save cash.

'While no suggestion should be off the table this year, we do not believe that taking learning time away from our children — particularly when the state is already facing great challenges in the K-12 education arena — is a wise option,' Sanford said.

Instead, he proposed a 5 percent salary cut for any state worker making over $35,000 a year, to save $98 million.

Sanford also said state workers should take two unpaid holidays, saving nearly $13 million. Those days would be cut even as agencies use unpaid furloughs to deal with existing budget problems, taking as many as 10 days' pay from workers' checks in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Sanford also said the state could save $26 million by consolidating school districts, and proposed big reductions in colleges' community programs. Clemson University's programs would lose $18 million as the state stops paying for, among other things, the meat inspection, forestry, crop and pesticide programs it runs.

And Sanford said the state needs to eliminate funding for the State Museum Commission and the Arts Commission. 'Given that our state has cut over $2 billion from the budget since the economic downturn, we are forced to eliminate all but the most necessary programs from the state's activities,' Sanford said.