Wednesday, January 31, 2007

AP Interview: Sanford's 2nd term to have slimmer agenda


Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Gov. Mark Sanford has his second term agenda slimmed down enough to fit on a business card as he heads into a busy couple of weeks with his second inauguration and the Legislature returning to Columbia.

Sanford says he ran for second term because "we wanted to get more done on restructuring, on tax reform, on improving the business soil conditions, and DUI and worker's comp - a lot of different things."

But many of Sanford's ideas boil down to the same theme - keeping the state operating within its financial means.

Sanford will have other things keeping him busy the rest of this month, like deciding who stays and goes in his 14-member Cabinet. The past few weeks, the governor has been tied up preparing his executive budget. And now the emphasis is on Wednesday's inaugural and his fifth State-of-the-State address the next week.

The governor said he has no regrets about a first term where he earned national notice for toting squirming piglets to the doors outside the House's chamber to protest rapid-fire budget veto overrides.

Sanford said he had worked for months with leaders in the House to repay an unconstitutional deficit and his vetoes would have freed up cash to do that. But House leadership didn't go along and that isn't remembered or reported, Sanford said.

"One, there was an eight-month lead-up to it. Two, there was a constitutional issue at the core of what was going on and three was it worked," said Sanford, who noted he warned then-House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, that he would have no choice other using "some colorful way" to bring attention to the issue.

A few days after the pig episode, the Senate addressed the deficit, Sanford said.

"Had not that level of attention been brought to that matter, it would not have been dealt with," Sanford said.

The constant stories written about how the governor and General Assembly are at odds undermines his ability to use the office as a bully pulpit, Sanford said.

"What you can't have is every time we play the last card - which is going out to the people - then it's immediately cast as, 'Oops. The guy can't get along," Sanford said.

That can "substantially curtail the strength of the executive branch in any debate. Period," Sanford said.

This week, Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell took offense when Sanford pointed out in his $6.5 billion budget this week that legislators hadn't kept a promise to keep spending in check last year.

The reaction to a phrase in a 350-plus page document made a "mountain out of mole hill," Sanford said.

Anyone may be able to find some offense in the budget, he said. "Give me a break."

The governor said he also has heard people mentioning him as a 2008 presidential candidate.

"It's been flattering and incredibly kind of these different folks," he said. "No doubt, the conservative base of the party is still looking for somebody."

Sanford said while says he'll continue to talk to people making pitches, "I have no intention of running for president or vice president or anything else."

One thing Sanford does know as he gets ready for four more years as governor is his life won't be getting back to normal. "I don't know that normalcy goes with this particular chapter of life we're in," he said.

But Sanford says his sons do like a few things, like on Wednesday, "they get yanked out of school because Daddy's getting sworn in as a governor again" and they get to spend some time with cousins, the governor said.

Joyce Comments: No need to be coy Governor Sanford -- jump in the presidential race! You are the dark horse the primary needs that the country and the Republican party are looking for.

NASCAR puts limit on past champ provisional

NASCAR puts limit on past champ provisional

Official Release
January 31, 2007
03:01 PM EST (20:01 GMT)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR announced Wednesday an update to the past champion's provisional rule in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series for 2007.

Beginning this season, a past champion's provisional may be used by an eligible driver a maximum of six times over the course of the season. In addition, a team with a past champion eligible driver may only use this provisional a maximum of six times during a season.

Previously, there was no limit on usage of the past champion's provisional over the course of the 36-race season. The provisional gives the eligible driver the 43rd and final starting position in the race field.

"As NASCAR seeks to place more emphasis on competition, we have decided the time is right to limit the number of provisionals allowed," said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton.

"We believe this revision brings the provisional policy in line with the continued growth of the sport."

Mark Sanford: The Right Man for 2008?


By Joel Mowbray

With the implosion of George Allen, movement conservatives no longer have a candidate in the presidential mix that looks and acts like one of them. Even though the field contains several heavy hitters, such as John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the GOP grassroots has no one that is a natural fit.

If a small but growing number of conservatives have their way, however, a candidate that could truly excite the base might enter the fray: my old boss and current South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

On paper, a Sanford candidacy seems Quixotic. Entering the White House derby at this point would actually be late in the game, he's little-known outside South Carolina and Washington, D.C., and his main foil the past four years has been the GOP-dominated legislature.

But if Republican primary voters decide that the 2008 standard-bearer needs to bring the party back to its Reagan roots, Sanford could be the dark horse to watch. The recently re-elected governor could capture conservatives' imagination with his unrelenting adherence to core principles. Unlike most GOP governors who either pushed their state parties to the left or simply acquiesced to tax or spending increases passed by legislatures of either party, Sanford has battled profligate Republicans at every turn.

When the state House overrode all but one of his 106 spending line-item vetoes in 2004, Gov. Sanford stormed the Capitol the next morning with a piglet under each arm. Red-faced Republicans squealed, but voters loved the bold move. Realizing they couldn't be quite as wasteful as their counterparts, the Senate sustained seven of the vetoes--but still overrode 99.

Sanford has been rankling fellow Republicans long before arriving in Columbia. As Congressman from 1995-2001, GOP leadership knew that he was beyond their control. In 1999, he and then-Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) used parliamentary procedures to save taxpayers a fortune. The farm spending bill came to the floor with an "open rule"--meaning any germane amendments could be offered. Reps. Sanford and Coburn together drafted 121 fat-trimming amendments, and after trudging through just a few dozen of them, House leadership pulled the entire bill. It was only re-introduced after $1 billion had been carved out.

Though it was exciting to work for Sanford, it wasn't lucrative. His staff was consistently among the lowest-paid on Capitol Hill, and we were expected to pinch every penny in running the office. But a hypocrite Sanford was not; he slept on a cot in his office--all six years. Taxpayers were rewarded for his frugality. Sanford returned well over $1 million of his office budget to the Treasury during his tenure.

Since becoming governor in 2003, Sanford has only gotten more tightfisted. Compared to his one-term predecessor, total salaries in his first term were $7 million lower--just for the governor's office, not statewide. And even though Gov. Hodges wasn't exactly a jetsetter, the Sanford administration's travel budget nosedived 42%, saving taxpayers over $25 million. In total, the running of South Carolina's government from 2003-2006 cost $100 million less than the previous four years.

While his budget cuts have proven quite popular with a public fed up with pork barrel politics, Gov. Sanford doesn't gear his actions to maximize popularity. As governor, he vetoed earmarked funding for the Special Olympics, on the theory that government should not play favorites among non-profits. On Capitol Hill, he was just one of three Congressmen to oppose taxpayer subsidies for a breast cancer stamp. Looking past the feel-good image of the funding request, Sanford voted against it because most of the money raised was going to go to Post Office administration, with little dedicated to actual breast-cancer research.

South Carolina's chief executive is also a practical problem solver. When Wall Street was poised to lower the state's perfect AAA bond rating--over concern for the $155 million budget deficit Hodges left as a parting gift--the MBA-educated governor traveled to New York. He persuaded two of the three main bond-rating agencies to maintain South Carolina's score, while the third only dropped it one notch, to AA+.

Sanford hasn't even hinted that he's interested in running for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but that hasn't stopped activists and contributors from prodding him. Should he run, he would face very long odds. Then again, long odds are all he's ever known. In a seven-way 2002 primary, he beat three statewide-elected officials and then cruised to a fairly easy victory over incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges. Going back even further, he emerged from complete obscurity to top a six-way Congressional primary in 1994.

In spite of open opposition from some in the Republican establishment, Sanford won handily, 55-45--the largest margin for any South Carolina gubernatorial or Senate candidate in 16 years. To celebrate defying the GOP old guard and winning, Sanford is about to fight fellow Republicans--again--for more tax cuts.

That this is par for his course is exactly why conservatives, from inside the beltway and out, have been pleading with Sanford to think of the White House--and why his message could resonate with voters.