Saturday, December 12, 2009

Accurate count of stimulus jobs a goal we should all share

By Richard Eckstrom
S.C. Comptroller

While we all want the stimulus to be successful in reducing the jobless rate, it’s a sad fact that millions of jobs have been lost since the $787 billion stimulus passed in February. Both our state and national unemployment rates have skyrocketed.
I have been open about my opposition to the stimulus: We’re spending money we don’t have, and we’re burdening future generations with mountains of debt, all under the pretense of economic recovery. Washington used the economic crisis as an excuse to permanently shift resources from the private sector to the public sector, dramatically increasing the size and scope of government at a time we should have been scaling back the cost of government.
Furthermore, I’ve been concerned that the stimulus would do little to create private sector jobs, because so much of the spending is on things that have little to do with stimulating the economy.
In October, the White House released its first report on stimulus jobs. According to the report, the stimulus “saved or created” more than 640,000 jobs nationwide, with more than 8,100 of those in South Carolina. There are many reasons to be skeptical of those numbers, however. They hardly square with the fact that the jobless rate has risen significantly since the stimulus spending began.
On Nov. 10, I was in Washington along with every other state’s stimulus oversight coordinator to meet with federal officials in a meeting arranged by the National Governor’s Association. As we discussed whether the stimulus had achieved its goal of creating new jobs, I used the occasion to voice my concerns about the way the White House is counting stimulus jobs, and to propose changes.
Either unwittingly or by design, the process being used to count jobs has resulted in artificially high jobs numbers. For one thing, rather than simply count the number of jobs created, the White House has coined the phrase “jobs saved or created,” which has resulted in an inflated job count. Recipients of stimulus funds have had to guess how many jobs have been saved, since no one knows for sure whether or how many jobs they might have shed had the stimulus not passed. Upon examination, many of those guesses have been grossly exaggerated.
There also have been media reports from across the country of stimulus funds being used to give employees raises and those raises being counted as “jobs saved.”At the conclusion of our meeting, the Governor’s Association convened an emergency task force to study the way jobs are counted, and I was appointed to serve on it. We’ve since met several times by conference call, and I’ve submitted a formal proposal to apply some common sense to the job count.
Among my reform proposals are:

  1. Simply count new jobs created rather than the nebulous “jobs saved or created,” since estimating “jobs saved” requires guesswork.
  2. Count “jobs created” using actual hours worked, which could be verified using auditable payroll records, rather than using complicated estimation formulas provided by Washington.

  3. Count of jobs that are known to be temporary, part-time jobs separately. Of the jobs the White House reported for South Carolina, more than 2,600 were in part-time, summer youth programs that ended with summer — certainly not the kind of jobs necessary to support families and sustain an economy. To count those jobs as if they were full-time, well-paying jobs distorts the numbers.
Regardless of one’s opinion on the stimulus, we should all be able to agree that Americans deserve an honest assessment of the stimulus’ impact. Besides, we won’t be the ones repaying this debt — that will fall to our children and grandchildren. We’re “eating their seed corn,” to borrow an old country phrase. It means we’re consuming resources today at the expense of tomorrow. More than anything, we owe it to those future generations to measure, as accurately as possible, the effectiveness of this stimulus spending for which they’ll be paying for decades.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A truly worthy cause: Charity makes repairs to homes of elderly and disadvantaged

By Richard Eckstrom
S.C. Comptroller

Even in the best of times, it’s important to remember those less fortunate. Helping others is our highest calling in life.

I don’t have to tell you that these are not the best of times. We’re facing the greatest recession of a generation, and our state and national unemployment rates continue to climb.

During tough times, those of us who have enough to meet our own needs must dig a little deeper to help those who do not. There are numerous ways we can all do our part, including contributing to organizations that feed hungry people, offer comfort to the sick or homebound, or provide shelter or warmth for those who lack proper housing.

One of my favorite charities is HomeWorks of America, a South Carolina-based non-profit organization which makes repairs to the homes of elderly and financially disadvantaged people. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve this worthwhile cause as a member of the group’s board of directors.

HomeWorks was founded in the 1990s by Hank Chardos, who now serves as the group’s executive director. His daughter had participated in a mission trip to repair to homes of less fortunate families, and was moved by the experience.

In 1996, HomeWorks held its first home-repair session. The organization enlists the help of teen volunteers, who work with adult “mentors” to ensure that the work is done properly. They fix roofs, repair floors, install wheelchair ramps and smoke detectors, and do plumbing and yard work. Local businesses donate much of the supplies. The teens pay a small fee to volunteer -- but the rewards well worth the cost and effort.

The volunteers say a prayer before each work session. Importantly, they also get to know the homeowner they are helping -- a meaningful experience for both the homeowner and the volunteers.

Some of the projects are one-day “blitzes.” During the summer, there are work sessions that last several days. In January, the group will do “Winter Blitzes” in Myrtle Beach, Columbia and the universities of Georgia and Clemson. In April, they’ll repair homes in Greenville, Spartanburg, Kershaw, York, Charleston, Aiken and Horry and Richland counties.

They also make annual mission trips to the impoverished city of Zorritos, Peru, to help feed people there and make repairs to homes.To find out more about HomeWorks, visit, email, or call (803) 781-4536.

This holiday season, the concept of helping those less fortunate takes on an added significance. Those of us with the resources to meet our own needs would do well to take stock of our blessings, and consider sharing those blessings with those who need it most.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Online Sunshine

(Myrtle Beach Sun News editorial, Oct. 18)

Local advocates of open government got a double helping of good news in recent weeks. First, state Comptroller Richard Eckstrom stopped in Myrtle Beach to congratulate that city and Surfside Beach for being among the first local governments in the state to begin regularly posting a record of all their spending online. Almost immediately afterward, the city of Georgetown announced that it, too, would join the growing statewide push for a very simple form of transparency.

As the trailblazers, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach probably share some of the credit for Georgetown's decision. Inside Georgetown, city manager Chris Eldridge credits Councilman Paige Sawyer with stirring up momentum for the idea. Georgetown's checks have not yet begun appearing online, but Eldridge says city officials are merely ironing out some final kinks in the reporting software and that the first checks should go online soon.

Transparency should be a fundamental goal of any governing body, and putting these check registers online should be a simple way of demonstrating a dedication to it. Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea has repeatedly said that the process involved almost no manpower - the spending reports were being generated anyway, so it was just a process of tweaking the finance software to create a version for the Web.

For little pain, there are several important gains. Most citizens may never look at the reports, but they surely have increased confidence in city leaders willing to bare their books so openly. Some city officials fear either a deluge of questions about minute items or the misuse of the data out of context to conjure misleading allegations of wrongdoing, but so far, even in a tough election season, neither problem has materialized.

Three local governments in a row (more than a dozen now statewide) begins to look like a trend, and another may soon follow. North Myrtle Beach officials are now in the process of putting their own checks online, said city spokeswoman Nicole Aiello, and a formal announcement of the plan is likely to come soon. When carried to fruition, this will be welcome news from North Myrtle Beach, where both we and the nonpartisan S.C. Policy Council have recently complained about other new policies restricting public access to records.

Further, Horry County is now taking initial steps, as county officials said this week that the technology staff is exploring what it would take to put the county's checks online. Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland, who previously was cool to the idea, said this week she will ask for a report on the effort at the county's November administration committee meeting.

Gilland remains skeptical, voicing concerns about labor required to set it up and saying that she plans to check first with Charleston County and see if citizens are using the service there. "If there's very little interest, then I'm not interested," Gilland said.

We would maintain, however, that the cost-effectiveness of the effort will be undervalued by a clicks-per-man-hour comparison. All the money is the public's, and publicizing its use online is simply the right thing for government officials to do, no matter how many people look at it any given week.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Surfside, Myrtle Beach get kudos for transparency

(From WPDE News, Florence-Myrtle Beach)

South Carolina Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom stopped in Myrtle Beach Thursday, to compliment the mayors of Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach on their efforts in governmental transparency.

Both Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach post their weekly check registers on their respective Web sites for taxpayers to see.

Myrtle Beach made the move in July of this year. Surfside Beach began doing it last month.

According to the Office of the Comptroller General, there are now 12 local governments in the state posting check registers on the internet.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Some stimulus projects defy common sense

By Richard Eckstrom
State Comptroller

I recently read an Associated Press report about a sleepy border checkpoint between Montana and Canada which will receive $15 million in “stimulus” funds. The checkpoint will receive the money despite the fact that only about three travelers a day cross the border there.

The project actually ranks low on a priority list compiled by the Office of Homeland Security, but two powerful Democratic senators pushed the project to the top of the list. According to the story, the project involves building a checkpoint station “the size and cost of a Hollywood mansion.”

Similarly, a North Dakota checkpoint which serves an average of 73 travelers a day will also receive $15 million in stimulus funds.

What’s most noteworthy is that other projects rated much higher on the Office of Homeland Security’s priority list -- including a Texas checkpoint that serves 55,000 travelers a day -- were bypassed for stimulus funds.

So what was the basis for selecting the Montana checkpoint -- which, again, sees almost no traffic -- over more pressing needs? No one is quite sure, other than the fact that two senators asked the director of Homeland Security to bump the project up ahead of others. Federal officials charged with overseeing border projects won’t make public their selection criteria.

According to the report, federal officials “said they wouldn't release the master list (of proposed projects) because it was just a starting point and subject to misunderstanding.” It’s an excuse I have heard before. As I travel the state to encourage local governments to post details of their spending on the Internet, it’s not uncommon for a mayor or a county councilman’s first response to be that ordinary citizens won’t understand the information. (To me, that shows a lack of faith in the public, and certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to conduct public business as openly as possible.)

It may be the case that most people think spending millions on border checkpoints which see very few travelers is a wise investment. Others might argue it’s a waste of money.

But what’s clear to me is that those projects should have been decided on their own merits, rather than under the pretense of “economic recovery.” They look more like “pork” -- that time-honored tradition of politicians showering benefits on favored constituencies -- than they resemble sound policy to create jobs and end the recession.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

State stimulus spending now online

(From the Myrtle Beach Sun News, Sept. 17)

State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom announced today that all expenditures of stimulus funds by state agencies are available at

More than a half-billion stimulus dollars of an estimated $3 billion have come through state government so far.

“The debt from this spending extends far into the future of our children and grandchildren, so we owe it to those future generations to ensure the funds are spent without impropriety and with accountability and transparency,” Eckstrom said.

Visitors to the site can click on the “Stimulus Spending Transparency” button on the left side of the home page. The site will be updated monthly.

The stimulus transparency page has three files -- one sorted by the state agencies spending the funds, another sorted by the purpose of the expenditure and another sorted by vendor or recipient.

The information regarding stimulus spending will also soon be posted on the state’s official stimulus Web site,

“People deserve easy access to how this money is spent. Not only that, but when spending is done in the open, public officials are usually more accountable. They know their spending decisions will be examined by the public,” he said. “If transparency is important under ordinary circumstances, it’s even more critical with massive infusions of cash like this, which can invite opportunities for waste, mismanagement and even fraud.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some local governments reveal checkbooks online

(Hilton Head Island Packet, Monday, Sept. 7)


The city of Beaufort already has made records of its financial transactions available online, and Beaufort County says it will follow suit.

Officials with other local municipalities, however, don't have firm plans to get their own records up on the Web.

S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom encouraged the state's local governments to post their checkbooks online shortly after the state's spending-transparency Web site launched in March 2008.

Since then, 12 governments have put their monthly spending and revenue records on the Internet, according to the comptroller's office. They include the city of Charleston and Dorchester County.

Hilton Head Island town manager Steve Riley said he is aware of the steps other governments are taking to put the financial information online but has not yet talked with his staff and council members about posting town records. The idea might surface in time, he said.

"We've got some other things we're trying to put out and balance at the moment, and that's not at the top of my priority list right now," Riley said.

Port Royal town manager Van Willis said the town is updating its Web site and hopes to have monthly financial records posted as a new feature. But no timeline has been set for when that will happen.

"We have financials that we do every month that anyone can take a look at," Willis said. "That's available at no charge, and that's something we'll probably post. We're kind of in flux, so there a number of things we're looking to add."

The city of Beaufort recently launched an online financial "dashboard," a one-page document that provides year-to-date reports on the city's revenues, expenses and fund balance.

Beaufort County deputy administrator Bryan Hill said last month the county's line-item budget would soon be up on the Web, with plans to include more financial data over time.

Officials with the town of Bluffton were unavailable for comment Friday.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Surfside Beach finances accessible online

(Myrtle Beach Sun News, Sept. 2)

By Aliana Ramos -

Between Aug. 11 and Aug. 31, the town of Surfside Beach wrote 159 checks and spent $597,225.16.

If you're curious about what the town spent the money on, you can now examine its check register online. The register will be updated monthly, said Kim Hursey, the town's treasurer.

Surfside Beach is the 12th municipality in the state to post its financial information online, according to a statement released Tuesday by the S.C. Comptroller General's Office.

"Any time elected officials make the commitment to show people how public money is being spent, everyone wins," said Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom. "By voluntarily putting this spending information within convenient public reach, Surfside Beach leaders are sending the message that they understand it's not their money they're spending, it's the people's money, and people deserve easy access to that information."

The Town Council voted on Aug. 11 to approve posting the register online to provide transparency and allow taxpayers to see how their money is being spent. The program is modeled after the city of Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach began putting its check register online July 2 and updates it at least once a week, according to the city's Web site. The S.C. comptroller general's office has posted spending for every state agency on its Web site since March 2008.

Eckstrom started encouraging area municipalities to put their check registers on the Web earlier this year.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

City will consider posting expenses on the Internet

(From the Georgetown Times, Aug. 13)

By Scott Harper

How much did the City of Georgetown spend at Wal Mart last month?

How about at Food Lion or on postage stamps?

Those are questions anyone with access to a computer will be able to find out if City Councilman Paige Sawyer has his way.

Sawyer is asking the city to consider a program already in place in Charleston and soon to be up and running in Surfside Beach.

The idea is to place a register of every check written by the city online so they can be reviewed by the public.

So far, Charleston is the largest city in the state to place its checkbook register online.
Locally, Sawyer has asked the matter to be placed on the City Council agenda for Thursday's meeting. It will be discussed then.

State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom has been urging local governments to post such information online, to increase government transparency.

"By voluntarily posting their individual expenditures on their Web site for all to see, they are sending the message that people deserve easy, no-cost access to how their tax dollars are spent," Eckstrom said.

Sawyer said the city placing the information online would be the appropriate thing to do.
"The citizens ought to be able to see where the money is spent," he said.

City Administrator Chris Eldridge said the endeavor could lead to confusion and misinformation since receipts will not be included in the information posted.
All people will see, he said, is the amount spent. They will not see an item-by-item listing of what was bought with the money.

"I really don't know how much it will tell the public," he said.

Sawyer said the remedy to that is if anyone sees a check and they would like more information about the purchase, they can issue a Freedom of Information request for the receipts.

Eldridge also said the city writes up to 200 checks each week.

An employee would have to spend valuable time scanning each one of the registers into the computer so it can be posted.

Sawyer said that may be a problem at first but "once it's up and running it should get easier."
To see how the program works, visit the Comptroller's Website -- -- and click on Local Government Spending Transparency.

That will take you to the Web sites of the places already placing the information online.

$480 million in 'stimulus' so far

By Richard Eckstrom
Comptroller General

At the recent meeting of the S.C. Stimulus Oversight Task Force, I was pleased to introduce state Treasurer Converse Chellis as a co-chairman. Treasurer Chellis was chosen by the state legislature this summer to join me in heading up the task force, which is charged with accounting for federal “stimulus” dollars to ensure they are not misused.

I had previously asked state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and state Medicaid director Emma Forkner to help co-chair the committee, and I am grateful for their efforts.
To date, South Carolina programs and agencies have received slightly more than $480 million in stimulus money. Agencies that have received the money are:

-- Department of Health and Human Services, $312 million
-- Employment Security Commission, $68 million
-- Department of Social Services, $42 million
-- Department of Public Safety, $23 million
-- Department of Education, $17 million
-- Governor’s Office, $12 million
-- Department of Commerce, $3 million
-- Department of Health and Environmental Control, $2 million
-- Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging, $222 thousand
-- Department of Transportation, $24 thousand

The Stimulus Oversight Task Force consists of more than 40 volunteers, mainly from state agencies which will receive the funds.

You’re probably aware that there is a wide range of views on the stimulus package. The White House argued that the stimulus was needed to quickly create jobs, and that the economy would immediately begin improving if Congress passed it. None of that has happened. Frankly, I believe there’s far too much wasteful spending in the stimulus package -- things that have nothing to do with improving the economy, like $50 million to endow the arts and $16 million to preserve the habitat of a kind of mouse in San Francisco.

But whether or not you like the stimulus, one thing is clear: There’s absolutely no money for any of this. We’re spending borrowed money, and we’re saddling future generations -- our children and grandchildren -- with unparalleled debt.

It’s because future generations will be repaying this debt that we have an obligation to closely follow the stimulus money to see that it’s spent as intended and to reduce the risk of fraud or waste.

Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the stimulus, South Carolinians can be sure accountability measures are in place, and that the Stimulus Oversight Task Force will provide much needed scrutiny as billions of dollars flow into South Carolina. I will continue to issue regular reports, such as this one, to keep citizens as informed as possible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Please, not another 'stimulus'

By Richard Eckstrom
Comptroller General

I was among those who felt strongly that President Obama’s “stimulus” bill wasn’t the way to get our economy back on track. Hundreds of billions of dollars of new spending on government programs seems to be stimulating government growth, but much of it has nothing to do with stimulating the economy.

Let’s not forget, there is no money for any of this. This “stimulus” package is being financed with funds that have been borrowed from foreign countries, and the resulting debt is falling on our children and grandchildren to repay.

The President promised the stimulus would “save or create” 3.5 million jobs -- a promise rightly questioned by economists who suggested the impact was being over-hyped in order to sell his idea to the American public. The President also called on Congress to approve it immediately, shutting down Congressional debate, a move he insisted was urgently needed to keep the unemployment rate below eight percent.

Yet since that time our national unemployment rate has ballooned from 7.9 percent to 9.5 percent -- a 26-year high -- and we recently learned that 467,000 more U.S. jobs were lost during June. There’s simply no reliable evidence that the stimulus has “saved or created” jobs.

On Sunday, July 5th, White House officials conceded they had “misread” how bad the economy was. Left unspoken was whether they had also “misread” the impact of the stimulus.

Now some Washington officials are talking of yet another stimulus package
As the state’s “stimulus watchdog,” I’ve devoted my efforts in recent months to tracking the federal stimulus dollars that come into South Carolina, to reduce opportunities for waste and mismanagement and to ensure the money is used as intended. It’s a job I try to carry out regardless of my personal feelings on the stimulus. But as a CPA and one of the state’s top financial officers, I’m convinced that the policy of continuing to spend money we don’t have -- and saddling future generations with tremendous debt -- is making things worse.

The White House promised that the economy would begin improving within weeks of the stimulus bill being passed last winter. Instead, it has committed billions for government programs, while the economy is no better off for it. If the White House and Congress seek to increase spending in the face of record deficits and continue to grow government, they should admit it. They should not try to justify their runaway spending under the pretense of economic recovery.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New momentum for local government transparency

By Richard Eckstrom
Comptroller General

Across the state, there’s a growing movement that will result in greater government efficiency and accountability.

Several local governments have begun putting their monthly check registers on the Internet. By doing so, they are empowering taxpayers with click-of-a-mouse access to details about how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent… and helping create a new era of transparency in South Carolina.

I’ve long believed transparency improves the quality of government. When public spending is done in the open, public officials are usually more accountable. They tend to make better decisions, knowing those decisions will face public scrutiny.

That’s why, several months ago, my office began a campaign to encourage local governments to voluntarily post their spending details on the Internet. We had recently unveiled a spending transparency Web site for state agencies, and local government spending transparency seemed like a logical next step. To make it as easy and inexpensive as possible, my office has offered to host the information on our own Web site if necessary.

Two-thousand-nine will go down as a watershed year for transparency in South Carolina. The towns of Irmo and Turbeville, the cities of Aiken and Cayce, and Charleston, Dorchester and Anderson counties have begun posting their monthly check registers online. The city of Columbia and the town of South Congaree have recently announced their intentions to do so. I also recently heard that Myrtle Beach was considering it, and a York County Council member told me he is exploring the idea.

And while my office’s efforts have focused on encouraging local units of government to voluntarily put their spending on the Internet, there has also been legislative debate over whether to compel them to do so. School districts soon will begin putting their spending details online, and a measure under consideration would require colleges and universities to do so. Thanks to the hard work of the S.C. Policy Council, Sen. Mike Rose and others, government at all levels is becoming much more transparent in South Carolina.

In putting such information at people’s fingertips, these local officials are sending an important message: It’s not their money they’re spending. It’s the people’s money, and people deserve easy access to how it’s spent. These local officials are also helping to gain the confidence of those they serve, which is important at a time when too many people distrust government or hold it in low esteem.

In meeting with local governments from across the state, I’ve been encouraged by the responses I’ve received. Many understand it’s their responsibility to provide such information, and to make it as easy as possible to access. Still, it’s clear to me that many local governments simply will not voluntarily do so, at least not without pressure from their citizens.

That’s why it’s important that citizens make their voices heard. Contact your local elected officials. Let them know you believe transparency is the best policy. Good government is made even better when it’s conducted in full view of the public.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eckstrom urges more openness on spending

(From Greenville News. Photo: Ron Dekett)

Greenville city and county so far have not heeded state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom's call for local governments to post their spending details online.

Mayor Knox White said the city of Greenville isn't sure if its computer system can put check registers online, as Eckstrom advocates, in addition to annual budgets and financial audits.

County Council Chairman Butch Kirven questioned whether posting check registers would boost efficiency or responsiveness.

“What they're talking about is anybody sitting in the comfort of their home at 10 o'clock at night cruising through the county's check register,” Kirven said. “Is that the way you run a business? Is that level of detail going to make us more efficient and responsive to people?”

Eckstrom, however, says putting spending details online is easy and inexpensive and that his office stands ready to help local governments with the task. He's conducting a statewide campaign for increased government transparency and brought it to Greenville this week during a news conference at County Square.

Joining him were state Reps. Garry Smith and Billy Wylie of Simpsonville and Dan Hamilton of Taylors and members of Greenville County Council and Simpsonville City Council.

Eckstrom said he lived in Greenville for years and would like to see “my own community become a leader in this and not have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this.”

Eckstrom, the state's paymaster, last year used the state computer system to put state agencies' spending details online, backed by an executive order from Gov. Mark Sanford. Eckstrom said he also included spending by the House and Senate in a move that drew objections from legislative staff members.

Spending details from every school district in South Carolina should be online in a few months, he said.

While Eckstrom is encouraging local governments to put spending details online, Smith and other lawmakers have introduced legislation to require it. The bill has not gotten out of committee for the past two years, however.

So far, Columbia, Aiken and Irmo and Charleston and Anderson counties have put their check registers online, Smith said. In Greenville County, he said Mauldin has put some spending details online.

Also appearing with Eckstrom was Ashley Landess of the South Carolina Policy Council, a conservative think tank in Columbia. Asked if the Policy Council puts its spending details online, Landess said her organization is private.

“We don't get any public money, and our supporters have a right to get their identity protected,” she said.

Spending records in paper form are already available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act, though getting them is more time-consuming and cumbersome than it would be if they were online.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Show me the (stimulus) money

By Richard Eckstrom
Comptroller General

Since being appointed as the state’s “stimulus watchdog” earlier this year, I’ve often been asked how much of the federal stimulus money we’ve received so far. I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer that question and to explain how it’s being used.

At the time of this writing, the State of South Carolina has received just over $332 million in federal stimulus money. Seven state agencies have received these funds:

-- Department of Health and Human Services, $263,947,399 for Medicaid services
-- Employment Security Commission, $48,395,901 for unemployment benefits
-- Department of Education, $17,178,039 for services for at-risk students
-- Department of Health and Environmental Control, $1,767,928 for maternal and child health services-- Department of Commerce, $832,429 for workforce development grants-- Office on Aging, $90,646 for meals for senior citizens
-- Governor’s Office, $40,545 for youth services

State agencies and programs are expected eventually to receive about $2.8 billion from the stimulus package (all paid for by increasing federal debt and printing new currency.)

Unfortunately, in their rush to pass this massive “stimulus” package, the White House and Congress seemed to devote inadequate thought to oversight. There has been much talk about transparency -- but despite the fact that stimulus spending is already happening, the federal government has yet to offer clear guidelines on how the funds are to be tracked to ensure they are used as intended. States aren’t even required to submit their first spending reports to the federal government until this fall. And the federal stimulus Web site,, merely offers general information and press releases about various projects.

Still, the people of South Carolina can be confident that there will be oversight of stimulus spending in our state. The S.C. Stimulus Oversight Task Force created by Gov. Sanford is committed to making sure the funds are spent with transparency and accountability. And my office is enhancing the state’s stimulus transparency Web site, so that anyone with Internet access can view detailed stimulus spending with a few clicks of a mouse. We’re shining a bright light on that spending. Burglars usually avoid brightly lit houses.

The stimulus plan represents record-shattering growth in government, it‘s laden with spending that has nothing to do with growing our economy or creating jobs, and it saddles future generations with enormous debt. But because it’s now the law, our focus has turned to ensuring these funds are spent without waste and misuse, and that people have easy access to the details. Citizens deserve to conveniently see how these funds are being used in South Carolina.