To hear the mainstream media tell it, South Carolina’s budget for the current fiscal year is roughly $5.5 billion.
The only problem? The scribes in the legacy press don’t count the $8.5 billion in federal money appropriated to our various state agencies – or the $8.1 billion in “other funds” that’s collected in various forms/ fashions from South Carolina taxpayers. Add those to the mix and the actual size of the state budget climbs to a record-setting $22.1 billion – an amount which is poised to grow by more than $1 billion in the coming fiscal year.
You just gotta love “Republican” rule, right?
Anyway, it’s not just this ever-escalating taxpayer tab that’s troublesome, it’s the totally non-essential, non-core functions that our “GOP” leaders keep subsidizing with our money.
For example, added on top of the current spending plan this week was an $11.4 million appropriation from the S.C. Education Lottery – which was created in 2000 to provide additional money for our state’s underperforming public school system.
Since our public schools clearly aren’t strapped for cash, lawmakers have decided to route that money elsewhere.
Glad you asked …
GETTIN’ PAID, GETTIN’ RICH
The vast majority of the cash – $7.8 million – is being routed to the so-called “Centers for Economic Excellence,” which is nothing but a command economic scam created to funnel money into risky “economic development” schemes championed by our state’s hare-brained higher educrats.
Or, in the glowing words of reporter Adam Beam of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, it’s money that goes to help “pay for renowned researchers.”
These public dollars are supposed to be matched by private dollars, but instead it’s almost always illegally matched. In fact, this latest $11.4 million was approved by lawmakers who openly acknowledged that the required matching funds may never come through.
Among the boondoggles funded by this this latest heist?
For starters, there’s $2.5 million for the University of South Carolina’s “Hydrogen Economy Center” – which received $8.5 million from taxpayers just nine months ago.
The brainchild of S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and USC President Harris Pastides, Innovista has already cost taxpayers nearly $50 million in state funds. The project was supposed to usher in the “hydrogen economy of the future” and bring “thousands of high-paying jobs” to downtown Columbia, S.C., but it has failed spectacularly on all counts. In fact, the limited “economic” activity it has been able to generate has been funded almost exclusively by government grants.
MORE CASH DOWN THE DRAIN
Who else got cash from this $11.4 million appropriation?
Well, a cool $1.25 million was doled out to Patriots Point, the money-losing maritime museum in Charleston Harbor that received a $9.2 million taxpayer-funded loan last fall – a loan that it has been unable to repay.
Meanwhile $2.3 million was routed to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) – which is spending money on questionable projects even as it asks for a $4.7 million tax hike on South Carolina’s hunters, fishers and boaters.
At the suggestion of Caroline Rhodes – who was appointed chairwoman of the SCDNR board earlier this year by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – the agency wants to raise fishing licenses, hunting licenses, turkey tags, saltwater fishing licenses and boat registration fees even thought its total budget increased in FY 2011-12 by $2.5 million (prior to its most recent receipt of taxpayer largesse).
Amazingly, these appropriations – and several other higher ed grants – were approved by “Republican” leaders.
Who were they?
Again, glad you asked …
WHO’S PULLING THE PURSE STRINGS?
S.C. Sen. Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington) and a pair of fiscally liberal “Republicans in Name Only” from Greenville – Senators David Thomas and Mike Fair lead the committee that doled out these dollars.
Thomas, of course, made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that he was receiving an inflated retirement payout from the state’s pension fund – even though he hasn’t retired.
Fair, meanwhile, is one of the state’s most notorious social conservative panderers. Earlier this week he made headlines by defending S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and arguing that she should not be compelled to testify regarding her alleged role in the “Savannah River Sellout,” an especially callous and costly betrayal of our state’s economic and environmental best interests.
Fair was one of twelve “Republicans” in the S.C. Senate to earn an ‘F’ on the S.C. Club for Growth’s fiscal report cards a year ago – and along with State Sen. Larry Martin (RINO-Pickens) he received the second-lowest score of any GOP Senator on this year’s report cards.
Not surprisingly, Fair, Martin and Thomas are on our list of “Republican” Senators who need to be replaced in 2012 with true fiscal conservatives.
Also on that list?
S.C. Senators Thomas Alexander, Paul Campbell, Ray Cleary, John Courson, Ronnie Cromer, Wes Hayes, Hugh Leatherman, Glenn McConnell, Billy O’Dell and Luke Rankin.
Seriously, South Carolina taxpayers … if you ever want to see your tax dollars protected and (gasp) some of them possibly even returned to you, it’s time to vote out the bums who continue to piss away your money on crap like this.