Fiscally liberal “Republicans” in the South Carolina State House are having trouble coming together as they prepare to blow a record $38.8 billion in the coming fiscal year – a staggering $4.33 billion more than they spent during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2023.
That’s a 12.6 percent year-over-year increase, people …
Even after we adjust for soaring inflation, so-called “conservative” supermajorities are poised to spend $3.51 billion more than the previous year – a 9.9 percent spike over the previous year’s record-setting spending plan.
Did your income grow by 9.9 percent over the previous twelve months after adjusting for inflation? Will it grow at that same rate in the twelve months to come?
Of course not …
This means government in South Carolina is (once again) expanding much faster than the ability of taxpayers to keep up with it – with increasingly pernicious economic consequences. No wonder the purportedly GOP-controlled S.C. General Assembly has been ranked as the most liberal “Republican” legislature in America three years running.
Members of the S.C. Freedom Caucus – a group of fiscally conservative lawmakers – have had enough of the profligacy. One of them – freshman state representative April Cromer – told me this week the vast majority of her GOP colleagues were “addicted” to passing bloated budgets.
Cromer is an internal operations auditor who is tasked with making sure every department in her family’s multimillion dollar business runs efficiently. She said she wished more of her colleagues would “take that approach when dealing with the budget” and other public funds.
Cromer also highlighted South Carolina’s oppressive, regressive income tax rate – which is the highest in the southeast and 11th highest nationally.
“This boils down to an ongoing addiction South Carolina lawmakers have related to crony capitalism and spending,” Cromer told me. “Instead of addressing our income tax rate, we spend taxpayer money on things like subsidies for a foreign company, horse races, food and wine festivals, and tax incentives for specific industries. This year’s budget – and legislative session – prove two things: The stranglehold special interests have on how money moves in South Carolina and the desperate need we have for budget reform and earmark abolition.”
It also highlights the desperate need for tax cuts for small businesses and individual income earners.
The S.C. House of Representatives is in its first full year under the leadership of new speaker Murrell Smith. Unfortunately, the new boss has done absolutely nothing to curtail the pork barrel excesses of the past two decades – or to help beleaguered taxpayers
If anything, Smith has exacerbated the existing inequities … while his lieutenants have been busy targeting fiscal conservatives for defeat at the ballot box.
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“Because of the influence and vested interest that special interests have related to the budget, it becomes electorally beneficial for faux fiscal conservatives to irresponsibly spend money,” Cromer said. “That’s why those of us who stand up to this egregious misuse of taxpayer dollars are targeted by dark money groups every week. The people must begin carefully paying attention to how their representatives routinely mismanage and carelessly spend their money.”
Cromer has been hit hard in her district by special interest attacks, but said she has no intention of backing down.
“My values must intimidate them,” she said.
As I have previously noted, small businesses in South Carolina are struggling under the weight of the Palmetto State’s anti-competitive, top-heavy bureaucratic system. With each new investment in duplicative alphabet soup agencies or corporate welfare misadventures, key indicators keep blinking red.
Unfortunately, there is no real debate at the State House over limiting the size and scope of state government – only a debate over divvying up the spoils. Last week, budget leaders in the House and Senate – both of which feature GOP supermajorities – were reportedly “stuck” over a pot of approximately $250 million in county transportation funds from the failed 2017 gas tax hike.
A budget hearing scheduled for this Wednesday (May 24, 2023) was canceled with no date set for lawmakers to reconvene. Count on this news outlet to keep our audience posted on the status of this unwieldy spending plan as it makes its way to the desk of status quo governor Henry McMaster.
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. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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