Sanford to attend Washington meeting

Some wonder about cost, usefulness of such groups

joconnor@thestate.comFebruary 18, 2010 

Gov. Mark Sanford plans to attend a national governors' meeting in Washington this weekend, as some governors begin to question the cost of such groups.

Sanford spokesman Ben Fox said Sanford will attend the National Governors Association meeting in Washington from Saturday through Monday . Sanford will fly to D.C. on the state plane, Fox said, and his registration and hotel will cost $1,150.

Dues for the association, which the state has yet to pay, are $106,600.

The meeting, Fox said, will give Sanford an opportunity to address President Barack Obama's decision not to open a nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev., intended to house S.C. waste.

Sanford and other governors will meet with Obama, as well as learn about energy issues from federal officials.

Fox said Sanford also will meet with like-minded governors about Yucca Mountain.

Sanford also is on a panel discussing surface transportation, particularly the public-private partnership model for new projects.

"There's relevant legislation in the General Assembly right now dealing with some of these same transportation issues," Fox said.

South Carolina's Republican and Democratic governors have attended the meetings for decades, Fox said.

But Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter recently cut his office's funding for attending the NGA meeting and will not pay the $60,000 membership dues because of state budget cuts, according to the Idaho Statesman. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a Republican, stopped paying for NGA membership and events in 2002.

Since taking office, Sanford has enforced strict travel policies for state employees to reduce costs. He awaits a State Ethics Commission hearing on 37 violations of state ethics law, some of which include his use of state aircraft for personal or political purposes.

But the Ethics Commission found no problems with Sanford's past trips to the NGA, Southern Governor's Association and other similar meetings.

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