Politics & Government

Trouble ahead for Spratt?

CAPITOL REPORT

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato's popular "Crystal Ball" Web site is having second thoughts about the re-election prospects of longtime U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-York.

"It has only been a week since the Crystal Ball published our most recent comprehensive view of House races across the country, but political news abhors a vacuum and there (are) already many new developments to report," Isaac Wood, House Race editor for Crystal Ball, wrote last week, downgrading the prospects of nine Democratic candidates, including Spratt.

The bad news for Spratt? His seat was downgraded from "safe" to only leaning Democratic.

Wrote Wood: "Rep. John Spratt finds himself in good company as a longtime Democratic congressman from a Republican district suddenly endangered in this newly Republican national environment. Republicans had been trying to push him to retire and while it looks like he has rebuffed those attempts, his political future is still less than certain.

"After voting for the stimulus, cap-and-trade and the House health care bill, Spratt has drawn a strong Republican challenger. State Sen. Mick Mulvaney was named by Time magazine as one of the Top 10 GOP challengers most likely to become the next Scott Brown, pulling off a surprise Republican upset," winning the "Kennedy" seat in the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.

"This will be House election No. 15 for Spratt, the chairman of the House Budget committee, and he has won every way imaginable," Wood concluded. "In 1994, though, his margin was just 4 percent and 2010 could turn out to be at least as close, if not closer."

THE BUZZ

When a $104 million cut is an increase

Rep. Harry Ott, D-Orangeburg, was very upset with The Buzz last week after The State quoted Republicans as saying money for K-12 education was increased by 4.3 percent in the House's draft budget.

Hogwash, Ott said. It's a cut of $104 million in state money.

Who's right?

In short, both are.

Ott's correct because the increase only happens if you compare the recurring money in the current year's budget with the recurring money in the budget that would begin July 1 plus stimulus money. When you add in stimulus money in the current year to recurring dollars, next year's proposed budget sends $104 million less to schools total.

House budget writers also are correct that stimulus money still spends like other money, and the total funding is an increase over South Carolina's share in the current year.

However, The Buzz should point out House Republicans bristled when Gov. Mark Sanford used the same accounting techniques against them during flush budget years. Sanford routinely would compare recurring spending in the current year to recurring and one-time money in the proposed budgets to arrive at a larger percentage of year-over-year budget growth. Sanford then used those budget growth figures to batter the General Assembly politically.

The technique is standard practice for the accounting wonks at the National Association of State Budget Officers. But The Buzz thinks Ott's apples-to-apples argument has merit as well.

GOVERNOR'S SCHEDULE

Gov. Mark Sanford's publicly announced schedule for this week includes two events:

Friday - Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast, 8 a.m., 124 Battleship Road, Camden

Friday - MTU Detroit Diesel expansion event, 10 a.m., 1084 International Place, Graniteville

Meandering around

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" Thursday night to talk about President Barack Obama's health-care summit, held earlier that day.

But host Jon Stewart couldn't resist asking Clyburn about embattled S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.

With a wave of his hand, Clyburn dismissed Sanford, saying he'll likely just "meander around" until his successor is elected in November.

Then, Cyburn deadpanned, the Republican would go off to the Appalachian Trail.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"When we need a billion (dollars) next year, these are going to look like the good times."

- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, commenting on the budget that committee passed last week. Cooper said the state will be facing more budget pain once federal stimulus money runs out after next year.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Notes from Election 2010

McMaster set to open his headquarters

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster will open the statewide campaign headquarters for his gubernatorial bid Wednesday in Columbia. The campaign headquarters is at 1620-B Gervais St. in downtown Columbia. The opening will start at 5:30 p.m.

McMaster, who has served two terms as attorney general, is battling three other Republicans for his party's nomination. Also in the race are U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Lexington state Rep. Nikki Haley.

SCHMOOZING

When and where S.C. lawmakers will eat and drink for free this week - and who's buying:

TUESDAY

- 6-7 p.m. - Reception, Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, S.C. Realtors

- 6-7:30 p.m. - Reception, Columbia Hilton Hotel, S.C. Centers of Economic Excellence, Health Sciences S.C. and the S.C. Research Authority

WEDNESDAY

- 8-10 a.m. - Breakfast, Blatt Building, Room 112, S.C. Aviation Association

- Noon-2 p.m. - Lunch, Blatt Building, Room 112, S.C. Public Defender Association

- 6-8 p.m. - Reception, Clarion Townhouse Hotel, American Legislative Exchange Council

- 7 p.m. - Dinner, Marriott Hotel, S.C. Governor's School for Science and Mathematics Foundation

THURSDAY

- 8-10 a.m. - Breakfast, Blatt Building, Room 112, Behavioral Health Services Association

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