My news outlet reported yesterday that South Carolina governor Henry McMaster was about to roll out his nominee to lead the S.C. Department of Commerce (SCDOC) – the Palmetto State’s top crony capitalist (a.k.a. corporate welfare) agency.
Shortly after this article was posted, mainstream media outlets in the Palmetto State confirmed that the governor was naming Harry Lightsey III to run this agency – which he did at a press conference at the S.C. State House on Thursday morning.
Lightsey – a former executive with AT&T – would replace Bobby Hitt, who was appointed to the post in 2011 by former governor Nikki Haley. According to my sources, McMaster had been struggling for months to find a replacement for Hitt – who has been trying to exit stage left for months.
Lightsey was “at least” his fourth choice, sources familiar with the search process told me … which is interesting considering he boasts an extensive résumé of corporate and political experience, including a stint as a board member of the Federal Reserve bank in Richmond, Virginia.
Prior to assuming his new post, Lightsey must first be confirmed by the S.C. Senate. That could be a rocky process given that a pair of state senators – Dick Harpootlian and Wes Climer – have made it very clear they have serious reservations about the opaque and unaccountable manner in which this agency has been doling out billions of dollars worth of market-distorting subsidies to select corporations (including liberal billionaires).
Transparency and accountability aside, is this “economic development” approach working for South Carolina? No.
Those are absolutely terrible metrics, people. Sadly, McMaster and “Republican” lawmakers have done nothing but double down on corporate giveaways – while also raising taxes and blowing billions of dollars worth of budget surpluses on political pork.
What should they be doing instead? Cutting taxes …
Last fall, University of South Carolina economist Joseph Von Nessen told a conference of business leaders that “South Carolina will have to begin re-thinking its approach to economic development” – focusing less on corporate recruitment and more on “persuading workers to live in South Carolina.”
Meanwhile, economist Rebecca Gunnlaugsson has done some excellent work highlighting how anti-competitive tax climates have curtailed economic expansion at the municipal level – saddling individuals and existing businesses with exorbitant tax burdens.
Are lawmakers listening? Again, no …
Rather than letting South Carolinians keep more of what they earn, the “conservative” S.C. General Assembly is instead preparing to plow approximately $2 billion in surplus taxpayers funds into the same maze of failed, byzantine bureaucracies that have been holding the people of the Palmetto State back for decades.
If South Carolina is ever going to improve upon its atrocious employment and income rankings, then GOP lawmakers must break their addiction to status quo spending – and their addiction to corporate cronyism.
Ultimately, changing those policies matters much more than subbing out which politically connected insider sits at the spigot of the corporate gravy train …
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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