South Carolina’s most recent state budget has soared to record heights … but the Palmetto state’s economy is continuing to contract.

According to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department, South Carolina’s gross state product slipped to $144.2 billion in 2009 – a 2.5 percent decline from the previous year. It’s the second year in a row that the market value of goods and services produced in the Palmetto state has declined – which obviously isn’t surprising given the extent of the broader global recession.

But unlike other states, South Carolina wasn’t particularly competitive before the recession hit …

For example, South Carolina’s per capita gross state product currently ranks No. 48 among the fifty states (trailing everyone but West Virginia and Mississippi). In 2007, it ranked 47th nationally (trailing everyone except Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi).

Clearly, the Palmetto state is struggling right now … unemployment is sky-high, income levels are plummeting, poverty is soaring, social costs are rising and our students are dumber than they’ve ever been before … but the sad reality is that this is the way it’s always been in our state.

“Bad” has taken a turn for the worse … or “gotten badder,” in the local parlance.

Sadder still? There’s not much in the way of competitive plans being advanced to turn things around.

Anyway, to view the gross state product data for yourself, click here …