COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) -- The United States faces a Zimbabwe-style economic collapse if it keeps "spending a bunch of money we don't have," South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Wednesday.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he does not want to spend money that his state doesn't have.
Sanford, a Republican, has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration's $800 billion stimulus plan. He said he'll turn down about a quarter of his state's $2.8 billion share unless Washington lets him use that money to pay down debt.
"What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have and send it to different states, we'll create jobs," he said. "If that's the case, why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?"
Zimbabwe has been in the throes of an economic meltdown ever since the southern African nation embarked on a chaotic land reform program. Its official inflation rate topped 11 million percent in 2008, with its treasury printing banknotes in the trillion-dollar range to keep up with the plummeting value of its currency.
But with South Carolina's unemployment rate now the second-highest in the country, state lawmakers will attempt to override Sanford and take the $700 million if he turns it down, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said.
"They will use the total economic stimulus to stimulate the economy, jump-start it, so we can get out of the ditch we are in as a state and as a nation," Bauer, a fellow Republican, said in a written statement Wednesday.
Labor Department figures released Wednesday showed South Carolina's January unemployment rate hit 10.4 percent, second only to Michigan's 11.6 percent.
Sanford is one of several Republican governors who have criticized the nearly $800 billion stimulus package, which passed with minimal GOP support in the Senate and none in the House of Representatives. Other governors, such as California Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger or Michigan Democrat Jennifer Granholm, have said they would take any money Republican-led states reject.
But Sanford told reporters that taking the money now would leave the state in the lurch in two years, "when those funds dry up."
"Fundamentally, if you boil down what the stimulus means for South Carolina, it means we would go through the process of spending a bunch of money we don't have," he said.
The stimulus measure allows state legislatures to override governors and take the money -- a provision championed by South Carolina congressman James Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House. Clyburn said Sanford is unlikely to get any waiver from the administration, and he called the governor's announcement "100 percent political posturing."
"This recovery package is designed to stabilize communities, to save and create jobs, and help our economy get back in a growth mode," he told reporters. "And you don't do that by paying down debt that's been incurred over a long period of time."
And Bauer said that if South Carolina turns down the money, "South Carolina taxpayers will be taking on the debt for economic stimulus money sent elsewhere."
Sanford has been called a potential GOP presidential contender in 2012, but he told CNN that the next election is "not where I'm focused."
"I don't rule anything in, I don't rule anything out," he said, adding, "If anything came along like that, it would be an incredibly long shot."
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