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“Pennies” For Innovista … Confirmed




Last month, this website reported that some of the proceeds from a proposed sales tax increase in Richland County, S.C. were scheduled to flow into “Innovista” – the failed command economic development boondoggle championed by S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides and Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin.

(To read our report, click here.  For more on the Innovista boondoggle, click here).

Once again, it looks like we were right on …

On Richland County’s website, there is a list of “2012 Roadway Projects” scheduled to be funded with the penny sales tax increase.  If you scroll down to No. 17 on the list … voila!  There’s Innovista – which is scheduled to receive $50 million for “Innovista Transportation-Related Projects.”

Funny … none of these projects were listed two years ago (when Richland County last attempted to raise the sales tax) and yet all of a sudden they’re high priorities?  Please …

Harris Pastides

Among these projects?  A new “pedestrian promenade,” which is ironic when you consider that these buildings are still empty (unless of course you count the taxpayer-funded jobs “created” and placed into them).

Interestingly enough, in addition to the tens of millions of dollars it has already bilked from state taxpayers – Innovista will suck even more money away from the private sector thanks to its inclusion in a special tax-exempt “development” district in downtown Columbia, S.C.  In fact these tax exemptions (paid for via higher property taxes on Columbia, S.C. businesses) means that Innovista doesn’t need to pay for its “transportation enhancements.”

In other words if the “penny tax” passes, we could be looking at a $50 million slush fund.

So … what does Pastides – who recently received a $125,000 annual raise from the University – have to say about all this?

Well we received no response to our inquiry from Luanne Lawrence, the University’s vice president of communications (who gets paid $236,000 a year from the taxpayers to answer questions like this).

Of course we all know that Pastides and Benjamin have been very busy lately (click here and here).  And for that matter, so has Harrell (click here).

That’s too bad … somebody needs to answer for this glorified theft (as well as the $50,000 that taxpayers have already spent on a bunch of television commercials promoting the increase).

FITS was already against this “penny sales tax” (like we were last time), but this Innovista connection is a compelling reason for undecided residents to reject the proposed levy.  We cannot continue to let politicians pass the bill to us every time they “pick a loser” with our tax dollars.