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184-MILE TAXPAYER-FUNDED COMMUTE DRAWS CRITICISM

S.C. Secretary of State Mark Hammond (above, left) is under fire for subjecting taxpayers to some serious travel expenses related to his daily commute.

Hammond – who lives in Spartanburg, S.C. – has been driving his state-issued Dodge Durango 184 miles each day to and from the state capital in Columbia, S.C.

Wow …

Even worse for Hammond (who is paid more than $90,000 a year, not counting benefits), in attempting to explain his way out of the situation he appears to have misled a reporter about the size of his office’s budget – stating it was roughly $150,000 less than it was when he took office in 2003. In reality, the Secretary of State’s office has seen its budget increase by $300,000 over that time period.

Ruh-roh …

Democrats pounced on the discrepancy.

“Once again we have an example of a Republican double-speak,” Charleston County Democratic Party chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan said in a statement. “He goes around talking about smaller government and then wasting taxpayer money driving from Spartanburg to Columbia every day.”

Quirk-Garvan added “do we really want someone in charge of business licensing for South Carolina if he can’t read a basic budget?”

Good question …

Obviously Mark Hammond’s travel budget is a drop in the bucket of the state’s $23 billion spending plan – but the appearance of such an exorbitant commute is unlikely to sit well with voters (who elected Hammond to do a job that’s based in Columbia).

If Hammond wanted to stay in Spartanburg, S.C., he shouldn’t have run for this office …

Hammond is unopposed in this spring’s GOP primary election. He faces Democrat Ginny Deerin in November. FITS has repeatedly argued that this office is superfluous, and that its limited secretarial functions ought to be consolidated with the S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR).

We would take this opportunity to reiterate that argument …

In contrast to Hammond, S.C. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis campaigned in 2010 promising to “drive myself to work in my own car.” Loftis made good on that pledge upon taking office in 2011, refusing the use of a state-issued vehicle.