When Democrat Joe Cunningham announced his 2022 campaign for governor of South Carolina, he talked about the need for the Palmetto State to create new “streams of revenue.” That language troubled me. For starters, South Carolina does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
A big one …
This year, “Republican” lawmakers are set to blow nearly $2 billion in new revenue without giving taxpayers one red cent of their money back – all part of a record-setting, pork-laden $32.1 billion budget. This orgy of excess comes on top of ten consecutive years of average annual budget growth of $1 billion. Again … without taxpayers seeing anything resembling tax relief over that period (in fact, taxes are being raised as we speak).
There has also been no accountability over this ever-escalating investment … which GOP lawmakers have routed into the same byzantine maze of failed, antiquated bureaucracies.
Which leads me to ask of Cunningham: What sort of “new revenue streams” could the state possibly need? And what does he intend to do with them?
In speaking recently with one of the former U.S. congressman’s top supporters, I learned a bit more about what Cunningham is referring to when he speaks of “new revenue streams.” According to this source, who is likely to be one of Cunningham’s major institutional and financial backers, the “new revenue streams” of which Cunningham speaks include money from the decriminalization of marijuana and the legalization of gambling.
“We may even throw in some hookers,” the source told me, referring to the decriminalization of prostitution.
As a libertarian, I am on the record in support of all three of these policy positions. I have repeatedly argued in favor of permitting casino gambling on the South Carolina coast as part of a long-overdue diversification of the Palmetto State’s tourism industry – and my steady support for decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs has been a matter of public record for many years.
And yes, I have even come out in support of legalizing prostitution …
“If people want to make money by having sex with other people, what business is that of the government?” I noted in a post several years ago.
Do I believe all three of these policy positions would create a revenue boon for the Palmetto State? Yes. In fact, of all the claims made in connection with the debate over decriminalizing marijuana, a noticeable uptick in revenue among states which adopted this policy is the only one which appears to hold water.
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Obviously, there are societal costs associated with these policy shifts, too – as individuals who lack impulse control will have new avenues to waste their precious time and resources.
But ultimately, I believe these are all liberty and economic issues … and on the gambling front, government has absolutely no business trying to short-circuit legitimate private sector activity. Why not? Because the state operates its own gambling ring, the S.C. Education Lottery.
So … I support Cunningham on all three of these campaign planks (assuming he winds up adopting all of them).
What do I not support, however?
Plowing resources derived from these “new revenue streams” into the same results-challenged bureaucracies that have been running the state of South Carolina into the ground for decades. The Palmetto State’s economic, academic, infrastructure and quality of life metrics are absolutely atrocious – and getting worse. And this is after the GOP has engaged in an expansion of the bureaucratic state that would make Franklin D. Roosevelt blush.
Big government isn’t working … except when it is working against small businesses and individual taxpayers.
If Cunningham really wants to get the attention of independent voters, he will outline a plan for how he intends to spend all of this new revenue – a plan which would hopefully include long-overdue tax relief and a fundamental restructuring of state government and reprioritization of its functions.
Otherwise, electing him would do nothing to change the state’s unofficial motto … “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass player and a dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including the above-pictured Brooklyn Dodgers’ lid commemorating the 1947 major league baseball debut of Jackie Robinson).
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