I couldn't help but notice Brian Hicks' column on Friday about legislators coming back to deal with the budget. In it, Sen. Glenn McConnell took exception with my husband's point that if Statehouse politicians overspent, as they did in Columbia, they shouldn't be paid to come back and deal with what they created. I think Mark is right, and I know when our boys make a mess at the house, the last thing I'm going to do is reward them for cleaning it up.
Leaving aside the difference that Sen. McConnell and my husband have on this point, if the senator is going to take the time to take cheap political shots at Mark he should at least take the time to get the facts right. In making the case for paying politicians to clean up their own mess, he said something along the lines of "he lives in the Governor's Mansion and they have chauffeurs."
In contrast to the Legislature growing government by over 40 percent over the past four years, the Mansion Commission and I have taken extraordinary measures to try to be good stewards of this historic home where our family now resides.
We have cut operating expenses by roughly half, saving approximately $250,000 annually from the previous administration for a total savings of about $1.5 million over the past six years.
In addition, we have started a successful rental program at the Lace House, which used to sit empty, and have netted more than $250,000 that has gone back into maintenance on the property. The Waring House was historically held as the summer residence for the governor, but we declined it and instead turned this home back over to PRT so that it could be rented, with that money used for its maintenance and that of Charles Towne Landing.
As for chauffeurs, unlike the roughly 20 security agents who are assigned to take House and Senate leadership to receptions and parties across Columbia when they're in town, Mark does have a security detail because, among other things, he's the last person to sign off on inmate executions — and that's just one of the things that he does that at times upsets people.
It's worth noting that when we came to Columbia, there was a brand new BMW sitting in the driveway. The practice, going back to the Campbell administration, was that the first family could use this as a personal car. Mark declined it and instead bought me a minivan — which I now chauffeur our four boys back and forth to school in.
I found the senator's spending comments especially interesting given his near single-handed push to have taxpayers spend more than $30 million related to restoring a Confederate submarine. Then again, those actions fit with his efforts to have taxpayers hire drivers for the lieutenant governor when the previous lieutenant governor had dismissed them more than 10 years earlier, saying it was a complete waste of taxpayers' money.
I won't overdo the point, and I understand the motives behind some in politics, like Sen. McConnell, trying to take shots. But I do hope people understand how hard the Mansion Commission, Mark and I are trying to be good stewards of the mansion and its grounds.
JENNY SANFORDGovernor's MansionColumbia