(CNN) – South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford plans to ask President Obama for permission to use part of his state’s stimulus money to pay down its debt, not on new spending, according to a letter he sent state legislators Tuesday.
A longtime opponent of the president’s nearly $800 billion stimulus package, the Republican governor told his state’s lawmakers that spending approximately $700 million in money coming from the federal government would only make the state’s financial situation worse in the long term.
“[W]hen one is in a hole, the first order of business is to stop digging,” Sanford wrote in the letter obtained by CNN Tuesday.
Instead of spending the $700 million, Sanford plans to ask Obama for a waiver that would allow the state to use the funds to pay down “our very sizable state debt and contingent liabilities,” Stanford wrote Tuesday.
“In the unfortunate case that the President would deny our request, I will not seek the funds, as I believe doing so would not help our current economic problems and would do real harm to our future financial picture.”
Before passage of the stimulus bill, Sanford told CNN’s John King that the president’s plan to jumpstart the struggling economy would only prolong the pain of bringing the nation’s finances into order.
“We’re going to go through a process of deleveraging,” Sanford said on CNN’s State of the Union in early February. “And it will be painful. The question is: Do we apply a bunch of different band aids that lengthen and prolong this pain or do we take the band aid off? I believe very strongly: let’s get this thing over with, let’s not drag it on.”
Sanford’s plan to seek a waiver from the White House only applies to the $700 million in stimulus funds which Stanford has the discretion to control under the terms of the stimulus bill. The remaining 75 per cent - or roughly $2.1 billion – due to South Carolina will be spent as directed by federal law, Stanford said in his letter.