Originally created 09/23/04

Clemson receives governor's ire



COLUMBIA - Questions Gov. Mark Sanford and his staff asked during state budget hearings Wednesday suggest that spending cuts may be on the way for some Clemson University programs.

The governor criticized state spending on a book about sharks, Clemson's lobbying to preserve a budget for public service programs and services that benefit land and golf course owners.

Mr. Sanford is requiring agencies to prioritize every service or function they provide; those near the bottom of the lists could be reduced or eliminated.

Clemson's programs to study ways to eliminate beaver dams didn't fare well. The state spends $215,254 yearly at Clemson to deal with nuisance species.

Mr. Sanford asked why the private sector couldn't do that: "How much research goes into leveling a beaver dam?"

John Kelly, who runs the college's public service and agriculture programs, said researchers are finding better ways to eliminate them.

Mr. Sanford countered that there are simpler ways to handle such problems.

"I cut my four boys loose on a beaver dam," he said. "Why do we need to be doing that?"

It's the second year Mr. Sanford has put Clemson's public service programs under a microscope during budget hearings. A year ago, he criticized a master gardening program and agency plans to sell land and keep the money.

Part of the university's reaction to the budget cuts that Mr. Sanford sought last year came in the form of letters asking people who benefit from endangered services to write legislators seeking a reprieve.

That irked Mr. Sanford, who says Clemson has been diverted from its agriculture-based mission, which helped farmers, and is working more on economic development and gardening programs.

"Is it the appropriate role for a state agency to lobby its constituency for more state funds?" he asked.

Mr. Kelly said the intention was to make users aware that programs could be cut.

"This is a step beyond that," Mr. Sanford said. One letter, telling people how to lobby legislators, was sent from a Clemson Extension Service fax, he said.

Mr. Sanford also was critical of Clemson programs aimed at growing turf grass, particularly at golf courses, and of Forestry Commission programs that aid timber tract owners. Both taxpayer-funded programs benefit people who could pay for them, Mr. Sanford said.

In addition, the governor questioned why the Department of Natural Resources spent $70,000 on a book about sharks. Agency director John Frampton said a "tremendous number of people" wanted the publication.

"If we went to libraries around the state, how many people do you think have checked out the shark book?" Mr. Sanford asked.

"I would hope a lot," Mr. Frampton said.

By day's end, Mr. Sanford had told Cabinet agencies that they can't spend money not specifically written in the budget without disclosing it in an annual report.