Sanford calls out some Senate members as being unhelpful

Gov. Mark Sanford on Friday called out members of the state Senate as particularly unhelpful in getting reforms passed this year.

But, overall, Sanford said, the 2007 legislative session held some bright spots.

In his year-end review of the General Assembly, Sanford applauded efforts to overhaul the Transportation Department and state workers' compensation laws.

"DOT (being) on the cusp of getting something done is historic," said Sanford, who has pushed to bring that agency and others under his direct control.

The Senate and House still are struggling to reach an agreement on Transportation Department reorganization. They will take up the matter again when they reconvene June 19 for three days.

Sanford portrayed the Senate, which killed his across-the-board government restructuring package, as stodgy and out of touch with reality, singling out individual members for criticism.

He said Senate Finance chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, has resisted cutting taxes and holding the line on spending, for instance.

Sanford also blamed state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, for stymieing efforts to tighten the drunken-driving laws and Senate Minority Leader John Land, D-Clarendon, for frustrating workers' comp changes.

"We have a real generational problem on the Senate side," Sanford said, adding some older senators "held hostage" younger, more reform-minded senators.

"We don't have a conservative working majority in the Senate," Sanford said.

Efforts to reach Leatherman and Hutto for comment were unsuccessful. But Land, who has been in the Senate for 38 years, said, "Let the governor have his say, and we'll have ours."

Land said Sanford's attack was an effort to divert attention.

When Sanford took office five years ago, South Carolina had the nation's third-lowest workers' comp insurance premiums, Land said. Today, those rates hover around the 25th lowest, he said.

"It's only after he saddles up with the insurance companies and starts to receive all their campaign donations, and begins to appoint the insurance commissioner, that the rates began to rise," Land said.

Sanford did commend legislators for passing what he called "market-based" coastal insurance reform. That reform extended the coverage area for state-subsidized insurance farther inland. He also praised passage of a virtual schools program, designed to give students access to education in nontraditional classroom settings.

Sanford has clashed with the General Assembly at nearly every turn since his election in 2002. This year, however, he had praise for the House, including its passage of a $176 million tax cut for taxpayers.

That money is in the $7 billion state budget, which legislators have not passed. But Sanford didn't call out legislators for that failure, which they will attempt to remedy June 19.

"I don't think that's the worst thing that could happen to South Carolina," Sanford said of the failure to pass a budget.

Instead, the state budget might do well to operate on last year's budget until January 2008, Sanford said. In the interim, the state's projected $1.6 billion surplus could be put into reserves to act as a cushion as the national economy slows, he said.