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South Carolina’s State Ports Authority (SCSPA) doled out $7.5 million in public money to help the state land a pair of tire manufacturers earlier this year.

“It was a sound business decision due to the increased import and export cargo associated with (these) manufacturers,” a source close to the agency tells FITS.

Both incentive deals – which will ostensibly go toward “infrastructure”- were approved at a meeting of the SCSPA board on Tuesday.

The total taxpayer tab for the Continental and Bridgestone tire manufacturing announcements is not yet known. What is known, however, is that the state of North Carolina took a long, hard look at the Continental deal and decided that the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.

Specifically, North Carolina officials said Continental had “insufficient collateral” for a taxpayer-funded loan it was seeking.

South Carolina has been relying increasingly on government-funded incentives in recent years – with the total state investment in “targeted tax credits” soaring from $34 million annually in 1998 to more than $1 billion a year today. Meanwhile the cost of those incentives has been passed on to small businesses and owners of second homes.

According to the latest data, a whopping $3 billion (or 47 percent) of the state’s $6.2 billion property tax burden in FY 2012-13 will be paid by these two groups. Just seven years ago, this same group was responsible for less than a third of the state’s property tax collections.

Meanwhile, according to a recent report from our friends over at The Voice, local school districts have been raising taxes on businesses and second homes in an effort to recoup “lost revenue” from a 2006 “tax swap.” The only problem? South Carolina taxpayers have already been reimbursing these districts for their “lost revenue” via higher sales taxes – which makes this nothing but a shameless revenue grab.

Bottom line? We’re all paying the price as state-level politicians continue picking winners and losers in the marketplace and local-level politicians continue to produce the world’s worst system of public education.

All of which has led, predictably, to the state’s chronically-high unemployment rate, low income levels, deteriorating competitiveness and recessionary economy.

Nonetheless, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – once a pro-small business Tea Party candidate – has embraced this top-down command economic approach to job creation.