A crowd of over 1,000 South Carolina teachers, students and other supporters gathered at the State House to demand the governor accept over $700 million in stimulus funds for their state.
Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, a vocal critic of the federal $787 billion stimulus, has said he would not accept the money unless state lawmakers consent to use the same amount of money to pay down state debt. He has until Friday to make a final decision.
According to the state’s Department of Education, about 1,700 South Carolina teachers could lose their jobs if Sanford stands his ground and refuses the money.
At 10.4 percent, the state has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation and a consistently low ranking public school system. Some have accused Sanford, who chairs the Republican Governor’s Association and has been mentioned as a possible Republican nominee for president in 2012, of not putting the well-being of South Carolinians first.
“It’s clear he’s not playing to a South Carolina audience,” Brett Bursey, executive director of South Carolina Progressive Network told BlackAmericaWeb.
State lawmakers cannot overrule a governor if he doesn’t want to accept the federal funds, according to a federal budget official. Even those in Sanford’s own party are pleading with him to take the money.
“Based upon what we’ve heard this morning, if this governor can be so callous and so hardhearted to not draw down these funds for the benefit of our people, in my opinion, the governor has absolutely no interest in this state and the people he governs,” Republican state Sen. Hugh Leatherman said. Sanford and Leatherman met Wednesday afternoon but Stanford held firm in his position.
Some lawmakers, though, are optimistic that the governor will change his mind before the Friday deadline, believing he’ll wait until the absolute last minute and take the money.
“It’s unfortunate Gov. Sanford is taking people through all of this stress at the most horrible and tragic time of their lives,” state Rep. Leon Howard told the news service.