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BUT THERE’S A CATCH … 

S.C. House minority leader Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia) is introducing legislation aimed at legalizing casinos along South Carolina’s coast … or at least in the “Myrtle Beach area.”

There’s a catch, though … Rutherford views the issue not as an expansion of individual liberty, but as a revenue-generating scheme on behalf of the state’s corrupt, inefficient highway system.

There’s a political axe being ground as well … Rutherford said he’s outlining his proposals because S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley is “being disingenuous by promising to tackle our roads without proposing a funding strategy.”

“Governor Haley doesn’t have a plan to fix our roads,” he said. “She’s against everything and for nothing. That kind of stubbornness won’t fill our potholes, widen I-26, or create I-73. It’s time to get serious about how we’re going to pay for these repairs and Governor Haley’s mystical ‘money tree’ is not a serious plan.”

Wait … “get serious about paying for highway funding? “

Didn’t our state’s leaders just borrow half a billion dollars in new money explicitly for this purpose?  Why yes … yes they did.

Ready for the shocking truth? South Carolina does not have a highway funding problem … 

According to data compiled by the Reason Foundation, South Carolina ranked No. 2 in the nation in total taxpayer disbursements per mile in 2007.  In 2008 and 2009 – the latest years for which data is available – the Palmetto State led the nation in tax money spent per mile of state-maintained roads.

What about bridges? Glad you asked … from 2007-09 South Carolina led the nation in taxpayer disbursements per mile of bridges.

These investments – actual outlays and money borrowed from future generations of taxpayers – have only intensified in recent years, yet the condition of the state’s roads and bridges continues to deteriorate.

Why? Because South Carolina is pissing hundreds of millions of dollars away on totally unnecessary projects … and a totally incompetent bureaucracy.

Anyway …

No one is more vocal on behalf of legalizing private sector gaming than this website: No one.  In fact we wrote just this week on the pressing need for state leaders to move on this competitive advantage – eliminating the state’s corrupt government monopoly over this industry.

But the legalization of gambling (in the “Myrtle Beach area” or anywhere) is not about funneling more money to our state’s unwieldy, unaccountable politicians – it’s about employment, investment and opportunity for the people .

Our state’s leaders must  make that distinction … or else no amount of “new money” routed to our roads will ever fix anything.  In fact if anyone thinks all the “new money” we’ve dumped into this system over the last decade (including all those “stimulus” funds) made a difference, we’d invite you to drive a few miles on Interstate 95 … or 26 … or 85 … or … you get the picture.

Accordingly, while we have no beef with lawmakers earmarking a percentage of revenue from coastal casino operations to road repairs, we wholeheartedly oppose them pillaging this industry to support unsustainable spending on unnecessary projects.

The former is a responsible exercise of legitimate government authority, the latter is a pork-laden free-for-all … which is precisely what we have in South Carolina right now.

Rutherford deserves credit for having the guts to embrace this long-overdue reform … but we would encourage him to tread carefully as he attempts to link it to “highway needs.”

This is a liberty argument … and a prosperity argument. Period.