We haven’t been following the particulars of the latest debate over the “penny sales tax” for Richland County, S.C., but the history of this scam is a perfect case study for how local government screws over taxpayers in the so-called “reddest state in America.”

All with the help of “Republican” leaders in the S.C. General Assembly – and the mainstream media.

The “penny sales tax,” which narrowly failed two years ago, is back like cooked crack, people.  Why?  Because apparently local leaders weren’t satisfied with the $3.6 million energy tax hike they foisted on Columbia, S.C. customers last year in a shameless revenue grab.

(To read our previous coverage of this glorified heist, click here and here).

Anyway, the local chamber of commerce (led by status quo hack Ike McLeese) and the local government-fed public relations firm (Chernoff-Newman) have joined forces to spend $50,000 of public money on an “educational campaign” aimed at reinforcing the benefits of this tax hike.  That’s right … public money is going to lobby the public for (wait for it) more public money.

Before you get pissed off about this $50,000, though … consider the $50 million that this project will reportedly route to the University of South Carolina’s “Innovista” boondoggle, a spectacularly failed speculative real estate deal that has become the poster child for state-subsidized “economic development.”

The brainchild of S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and USC President Harris Pastides, Innovista has already cost taxpayers at least $150 million (including tens of millions in state funds).  This 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.  Unable to lure private investment or create the jobs that it originally promised, Innovista now sits as an empty monument to the failure of government-run economic development schemes.

Amazingly, it is still being funded by state and local taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars a year – and that’s just its direct appropriations. The facility also recently received a $154 million bailout from Columbia, S.C. taxpayers.

In addition to this money, sources tell FITS that the new “penny sales tax” will allegedly funnel another $50 million to Innovista in the form of “infrastructure enhancements,” which of course haven’t been touted by the taxpayer-funded promotional campaign associated with this tax hike.

FITS is working to uncover details, but if even one red cent of this scam is being funneled to the University’s signature boondoggle then this tax hike must be stopped.  We were already against the “penny sales tax” on principle (like we were last time), but this Innovista connection is about to take our opposition to a nuclear level.