Sanford wins jobless benefits game of chicken

Originally published by Mike DeVine, Legal Editor for The Minority Report

Once again the governor of the Palmetto State shows conservatives the way, whether one faces liberal Democrats, big government Republican majorities or entrenched big government bureaucracies:

Gov. Mark Sanford (pictured) agreed Wednesday to request a $146 million federal loan that will allow South Carolina residents to continue receiving unemployment checks through March.

Sanford had refused to sign the loan request because of a long-running dispute with the state agency that handles unemployment.

Sanford said Wednesday he agreed to request the aid because he got his way when several lawmakers said they would ask for an audit of the Employment Security Commission. He also found a legal provision that he says allows him to force the commission to turn over more information about how it calculates unemployment rates.

“We will not punish the unemployed for this agency’s incompetence,” Sanford said during a news conference.

For winning this game of Chicken with the General Assembly and the bureaucracy, we dub him an honorary Fighting Gamecock! (Pictured)

We reported on Sanford’s power play just before the New Year’s deadline when jobless benefits would have been cut off, in our:

This Sanford gives heart attacks to big government

In simplest form, our state is running out of money to pay unemployment benefits, and our office has been drawn into the debate because it’s up to us to request a band-aid loan of sorts so that these checks can continue being issued.

Here are my reservations:

A loan without reforming our unemployment benefits system will mean one thing down the road — a tax increase on businesses. According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, our state is roughly in the middle of the pack on our business tax climate, except when it comes to unemployment taxes — where we rank ninth-highest in the country, our least business-friendly tax ranking.

So we have simply asked for two things before we sign off on the loan. One, we’re calling for an independent audit of the ESC.

Since beginning to highlight this issue, we’ve had a number of former ESC employees raise issues to us about the operations of the agency. For example, in order to be eligible for benefits, a person needs to be “actively seeking employment.” We’ve been told that some interpret that to mean making just one phone call in a week to qualify as “seeking employment.” In a 40-hour work week, it doesn’t seem like one five-minute phone call should qualify you as looking for work.

We’ve also been told that some companies are essentially taking advantage of the system, and use the unemployment benefits as a sort of taxpayer-funded furlough. These are the kinds of things an audit could uncover, and in the process help avert a tax increase.

Two, we’re asking for better information sharing from the ESC.

Mark Sanford was the first Republican for statewide office I ever voted for, and he is one of the few politicians that has never let me down in his unwavering adherence to conservative principles and his savvy ability to see and seize opportunities where others seek supposedly safe shelter from the PC police on the left and especially in the media that have falsely branded Republicans as heartless and bigoted for decades.

Sanford not only shows the way for conservatives on the political front but also shows the way for chief executives here in the Tar Heel State and across the country how to confront entrenched bureaucracies and legislative majorities, even of one’s own party.

Opponents should be prepared for heart attacks unlike the fake ones exhibited by that other Sanford (pictured).

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer, and columns

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

Tags: Mark Sanford