Fresh off of a major victory in the battle over roll call voting, South Carolina‘s leading Tea Party activists will announce their next major legislative initiative at a press conference on Wednesday at the S.C. State House.
“We are happy to have the Roll Call bill finally signed into law,” Tea Party leader Talbert Black said in a statement. “However, it was only the first step. Our next target will make it look like a baby step.”
Black’s statement didn’t disclose what Tea Party’s “next target” would be, but in a follow-up conversation with FITS he said that the new initiative would address “a major recurring constitutional issue with respect to government interfering in the economy.”
A pair of sources familiar with the announcement told FITS that the Tea Party will be targeting government incentive deals – and will offer its support for new legislation to be championed by S.C. Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort).
“I’m not of the opinion that these incentive deals should be offered in the first place because they interfere with the free market,” Davis said. “If it is going to be done, though, then there needs to be a rational assessment on the front end and public disclosure on the back end.”
“Anytime you have 170 legislators trying to determine who should get tax breaks you’ve basically got the same failed top-down planning they had in the Soviet Union,” Davis said. “And people don’t realize it, but that’s what we have in South Carolina.”
According to Davis, the state doled out $34 million worth of targeted tax credits to companies in 1998 – a figure that ballooned to $523 million in 2008. Those numbers – which don’t include the billions of dollars companies receive in sales tax exemptions – have obviously increased over the last two years with the big Boeing deal.
While he declined to provide specifics, Davis said his pending legislation would create additional transparency at “every step of the incentive process.”
We begrudgingly supported incentives for the Boeing plant in North Charleston in late 2009 – of course that was before we discovered that the price tag for the deal was more than twice what lawmakers and former Gov. Mark Sanford originally said it was going to be. More recently, we adamantly opposed an incentives deal that was contemplated last year for a developer looking to build a “mega-mall” in Jasper County – and this year we are opposing a controversial incentives deal for online retailer Amazon.com.
As far as we’re concerned the less that government has to do with economic development, the better. In fact, if it were up to us we would eliminate all government funding for “economic development” projects (especially those linked to our research universities) and rebate that money directly to the taxpayers.
We’ll see how close the Tea Party comes to that goal in its efforts … but once again their leaders are to be commended for getting engaged in the fight for substantive reforms. In addition to this legislation and their successful push for expanded transparency in government, Tea Party activists have also rallied around a universal parental choice bill that would provide a measure of long-overdue market-based accountability to our state’s worst-in-the-nation public school system.
Let’s hope they are successful in getting all of these reforms over the finish line …