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#SCStateHouse: Hugh Leatherman Goes After Curtis Loftis

Budget proviso would strip state treasurer of starring role in advertising campaign …

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Not content with absorbing the limited appointment authority of the South Carolina lieutenant governor’s office, powerful South Carolina senator Hugh Leatherman is now moving against another statewide constitutional officer.

The diminutive liberal leader – who has a longstanding beef with state treasurer Curtis Loftis – is reportedly the driving force behind a proviso inserted into the latest version of the Palmetto State’s $30 billion state budget.  This proviso – or directive regarding the appropriation of state monies – would remove Loftis as the face of the South Carolina Future Scholar program.

This 529 savings program – which helps parents save for soaring higher education costs – has featured Loftis extensively in its television, radio, print, billboard and online advertisements.

If the proviso introduced by state senator Brad Hutto becomes law, though, that would change.

Hutto’s proviso states that “any space in a print medium or time on radio or television … purchased with public or nonpublic funds by a constitutional officer may not include the constitutional officer, his photograph, his likeness, his name, his voice, his signature, his logo or any other matter identifying the constitutional officer.”

That’s a gut punch to Loftis …

While Hutto’s name is on the proviso, sources familiar with the situation tell us Leatherman is behind the move – and that it is an extension of his ongoing battle with Loftis over the state’s abysmally managed pension fund.

This news site has written extensively on that issue – praising Loftis for his advocacy on behalf of taxpayers and criticizing appointees of Leatherman and former S.C. governor Nikki Haley for running the fund into the ground.

Looks like Leatherman is getting his payback by hitting Loftis where it hurts …

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Loftis told us he was disappointed by the proviso, noting that it would cause significant disruption to the program if allowed to become law.

“The arbitrary date requires us to scrap our marketing model, including recently produced television, radio, billboards ads and other collateral,” Loftis told us. “We will not be able to market the program for about six months and that will make it improbable that we can continue to sponsor scholarships (and) pay for financial literacy courses in over 200 schools.”

Loftis said the proviso would also endanger the SC ABLE savings program, which provides tax advantaged savings for South Carolinians with disabilities.

“That program has no marketing money of its own,” Loftis told us.

The treasurer’s bottom line?

“Future Scholars is a $3.4 billion program and it should not be managed by proviso,” he told us.

We agree with that part of Loftis’ argument … although this proviso has put him in the politically precarious position of having to argue on behalf of what amounts to free public advertising.

That’s a difficult spot to be in … even if this isn’t taxpayer money.

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