COLUMBIA -- The three commissioners overseeing the state employment agency said the state does not collect all the unemployment data that Gov. Mark Sanford has requested, but that they will turn over everything they have.
Commissioners estimate they can provide between 90 percent and 95 percent of what Sanford has requested, and that they collect all the data that Virginia collects -- a state Sanford has held up as a model for unemployment data.
Sanford told the agency last week that he will remove the commissioners unless they provide him with the data, which includes more detailed information on who has lost their jobs, who they worked for and why they lost their jobs. Sanford has set a Feb. 9 deadline to provide the data.
"Certainly, we would hope that would indicate our willingness to work with him," said commissioner William McLeod. "We'll just have to wait and see."
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The comments came during a meeting with State newspaper editors and reporters.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor will have to wait to see what kind of unemployment data they receive before deciding whether to remove the commissioners. The commissioners dispute that Sanford has the authority to fire them.
Sanford has criticized the agency for failing to sound warnings that the state's unemployment trust fund was running out of money.
To maintain benefits, the agency is asking to borrow $315 million from the federal government this year.
Commissioner McKinley Washington said commissioners did not ignore that the fund was running out of money -- and that it was discussed at confirmation hearings last year. Washington said no one wanted to vote for a tax increase in an election year.
"Legislators and commissioners were operating under the assumption that the economy would change," Washington said.
Because of his differences with the agency, Sanford has yet to act on the Employment Security Commision's full loan request to maintain unemployment benefits through the end of February. Commission employees estimate they have enough funds to last through the third week in February, and that additional loan requests -- beyond the $315 million -- are possible.