Opinion

Stimulus would help S.C.

This is no time for philosophical scruples about accepting stimulus money from Congress for state infrastructure needs. Yet both Gov. Mark Sanford and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint oppose getting money from Washington for that purpose.

President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team reportedly are negotiating with congressional leaders on a stimulus plan that can be passed and signed into law soon after he takes office. Talk at the moment centers on an injection of at least $850 billion in stimulus funds into the economy, much of which would be used to repave roads, build schools and upgrade sewer plants.

The plan has the endorsement of many prominent economists, who say the stimulus would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. That, in turn, would put money in workers' pockets, which, in turn, would stimulate spending.

But one other factor should be of special interest to South Carolinians: The infrastructure needs in this state are real.

South Carolina officeholders at federal, state and local levels already have identified pressing infrastructure needs that have gone unmet for years. The state has more than a dozen dangerous bridges, including the one spanning Bullocks Creek in western York County.

Century-old schools are crumbling along the Intertstate 95 "Corridor of Shame." Interstates and rural roads alike need resurfacing.

Based on its population, South Carolina would get $2.46 billion for infrastructure projects, employing almost 40,000 people. Hundreds of projects, some critical to the future of the state, could be completed.

While Sanford and DeMint may object to the idea of a federal stimulus program, many others in the state would welcome the money.

"Don't worry," said U.S. Rep. John Spratt, a York Democrat and House Budget Committee chairman. "Plenty of mayors and county council chairmen and other public officers in South Carolina will think of ways to spend this money. I want to see some of it spent in my state because we definitely need to boost our economy."

Sanford complains that a huge stimulus program would "bury future generations under mountains of debt." But the alternative -- allowing the economy to continue to stagnate -- could have an even more corrosive effect and produce more debt.

We need to remember that the infrastructure needs the stimulus money would pay for are real. And thousands of jobs would be created for South Carolinians.

We can only hope that the narrow views of Sanford and DeMint do not prevail.

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