COLUMBIA — Given the state's precarious financial situation, Gov. Mark Sanford highlighted $6 million in spending he's put under attack.
And on this one thing, he and outspoken Sen. Robert Ford seem to agree.
They believe the state Legislature never should have spent the millions upgrading security at the Statehouse complex, especially after learning this week the specifics over how big a hit the budget has taken in the struggling economy.
Ford, D-Charleston, said it took some pretty big "egos" for lawmakers to have spent so much.
"I go to the mall, walk down King Street — ain't nobody ever threatened me. Ain't nobody after us," Ford said.
Sanford's objections are stated a little differently.
"Not surprisingly, with the exception of Sherman's march through this town, our Statehouse has stood fine for the last 150 years," the governor wrote Wednesday in a letter to Frank Fusco, director of the Budget and Control Board, the agency that oversees such projects.
"I have no doubt that if we geared down on the present wastes of taxpayer money on supposed 'security,' it would continue just fine, and this is particularly important given the budget shortfalls our state faces," Sanford continued.
The state's top economic forecasters on Wednesday analyzed sales tax and personal income collections and other benchmarks before announcing the state coffers are expected to receive $554 million less than originally estimated.
Money for the security upgrades was allocated in 2006 and most improvements already have been made, mainly to the Statehouse's underground parking garage for legislators and those who work in the complex. The spending was part of the 2006-07 budget, for which Ford voted "yes."
Sanford wrote his letter in response to a decision to man a new security gate that was hit in the last week by a Department of Corrections vehicle. The governor said, "So much for the $6 million system. This is a colossal waste of money."
Mike Sponhour, director of public affairs for the Budget and Control Board, said the decision to put a worker at the gate is not costing the state any money. The worker is part of the parking staff and will be assigned to other duties when the gate is functioning properly.
The security measures were recommended by the State Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Protective Services following the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, stood up for the decision to secure the Statehouse grounds, specifically the need to keep legislative staff safe.
"I think the governor needs to come on and get real," Leatherman said. "This is the world we live in today."
Sanford's press secretary noted that the Statehouse already had a capitol police force and that government workers park in other garages without the same security.