Opinion Extra

Anderson: Focus on state's critical needs, not Sanford

Passages from the Bible and a famous speech by Abraham Lincoln remind us that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Now is a time to reflect as the House Judiciary Committee meets to determine whether there is enough evidence to remove Gov. Mark Sanford from office. These impeachment proceedings have the potential to elevate political tensions far beyond the normal realm of partisan ideology.

The legislative process is at risk of being held hostage by impeachment proceedings during a critical time in our state's history. Moreover, recent public opinion polls published in the media show S.C. residents have little appetite for Sanford's impeachment.

As such, our efforts should be directed at more urgent matters. Let there be no doubt, our state is facing a crisis.

When the General Assembly reconvenes in January, lawmakers must tackle a host of serious issues - all of which are more important than removing the chief executive who has about a year left on his term.

And these challenges must be overcome in an election year. Consider just a few of the issues before lawmakers:

- For a second consecutive year, state government faces a budget shortfall. The General Assembly must find ways to fund priorities - such as education, health care and public safety - amid dwindling state revenues.

- South Carolina has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates at 12.1 percent. According to the S.C. Employment Security Commission, more than 260,000 residents are jobless. And that figure does not include discouraged workers who have abandoned hope for finding work.

- The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2008 more than 700,000 S.C. residents were without health insurance. A recent report by Families USA, a health care advocacy group, estimates that number could be much higher, fueled largely by an increase in the state's jobless rate.

In addition, the state needs to attract more businesses, like Boeing, and industry and revamp its tax structure to maintain a competitive advantage in economic development.

Sadly, the impeachment hearings come on the heels of Boeing's historic announcement to create at least 3,800 jobs and invest more than $750 million in South Carolina when the company opens a second assembly line for its 787 aircraft in North Charleston.

Securing the Boeing deal took collaboration from the governor, his Cabinet officials and key members of the General Assembly among others. It was my hope that this renewed level of cooperation would serve as a blueprint for relations between the governor and lawmakers for the next 12 months or so.

Faced with such unprecedented challenges, we cannot afford to indulge in a matter that would leave us half for and half against the governor. The urgency of the times calls for us to be united for South Carolina.