Connect with us


More "Penny Tax" Waste




For years, the vast majority of reporting on the Richland County “Penny Tax” scandal has missed the mark …

Don’t get us wrong, the latest round of investigative digging by reporter Ron Aiken at The Nerve has been excellent … spurred on by a sorely-needed S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) investigation initiated by agency director Rick Reames.  Still, the broader corruption bookmarking this totally unnecessary levy remains largely unexposed.

While the real crime associated with the scandal remains un-prosecuted …

In the immediate aftermath of the rigged 2012 election that ushered in this $1.2 billion tax hike, mainstream media focused on the so-called “incompetence” of local election bureaucrats – who disproportionately targeted large shortages of voting machines in precincts that voted against this tax hike in 2010.

That wasn’t incompetence, though: These officials knew exactly what they were doing.

In fact, this voter suppression plan was probably hatched long before powerful Richland County legislators – with the approval of S.C. governor Nikki Haley – passed a law seizing control of the local election commission and installing their hand-picked puppet as its leader.

Talk about leaving nothing to chance …

Despite compelling evidence attesting to this voter suppression, the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) has refused to launch an investigation into the penny tax vote.  Not only that, the S.C. Supreme Court (without comment) upheld the rigged election – and the puppet who pulled it off got rewarded with a new job and a lifetime pension.

Most glaringly, S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson is reportedly sitting on a case that could blow the whole thing wide open – bringing down several prominent local elected officials in the process.

Unfortunately, as has been made abundantly clear via his mishandling of the probe into political corruption at the S.C. State House, Wilson cannot be counted on to pursue justice consistently.

So where does that leave us?

Well, the current probe into the proceeds of the tax has already produced arrests – although those appear to be tangential to the real graft.  One thing is clear, though: Unlike Wilson, Reames appears to be intent on fulfilling his obligation to the public – meaning SCDOR is not backing down off of its investigation.

So far, most of the “penny tax” focus has been on the illegal “consulting,” “public relations” and “management” contracts doled out like candy to politically-connected insiders.

Much less ink has been devoted to the actual “transportation” projects subsidized by the tax hike …

We know a little bit about one of these deals – a “streetscaping” project at the University of South Carolina tied to its failed “Innovista” campus – but are there other examples of unnecessary spending that have little to nothing to do with real transportation needs?

Yes …

Take the so-called “Gills Creek Greenway.”

(Click to enlarge)

gills creek

(Pic via)

Penny taxers want to build “approximately four miles of greenway on a concrete sidewalk trail with bridges, boardwalks and supporting facilities” in the heart of Richland County within the next year-and-a-half.

Aside from the fact that this “greenway” has nothing to do with fixing roads and bridges – as penny tax proponents vowed they would do –  the proposed route of this project is in the middle of a severely flood-prone area of the Midlands.

Not only that, sources familiar with the neighborhoods to be “served” by this proposed greenway say it’s likely to wind up being less of a fitness trail and more of a crime corridor.

“It would increase property crimes,” one source familiar with the proposal told us.  “Another issue is this is a county plan – however an overwhelming majority of the project falls (within City of Columbia, S.C. limits).  The City of Columbia police department would then be required to provide police coverage for the walkway once it is built.  That is not a small task.”

Nor is it a cheap task …

“Not only is this a waste of taxpayer road money, it presents a potential public safety concern for the neighborhoods along the walkway,” the source added.

We agree …

Forgot the flood concerns.  Or the long-term costs associated with policing this new path.

Here’s the real question: How on earth does a four-mile “greenway” help fill potholes or perform long-overdue maintenance on heavily-traveled roads?

Seriously … how is this in any way, shape or form investing in “infrastructure?”

Like the University “streetscaping,” this is a totally wasteful, completely unnecessary use of tax money – funds that have been specifically earmarked for “transportation” use, no less.

Which brings us to the whole point: While we (and others) continue to probe the corruption associated with the “Penny Tax” –  and continue to insist on justice for those who suppressed the will of the people back in November of 2012 – it’s important to remember that a far bigger theft is ongoing.

It’s not just the tangential expenses we should focus on … the projects themselves are corrupt.