State House

Another ‘Anomoly?’ South Carolina Lawmakers Must Return ‘Extra’ $1.8 Billion To Taxpayers

“This pot of money could be a lifeline …”

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The headlines came fast and furious for former South Carolina comptroller general Richard Eckstrom last year. In early February, his office announced it had uncovered a $3.5 billion “anomaly” in the state’s general fund budget. This disclosure prompted a legislative investigation – followed by calls for Eckstrom’s head.

At issue? “Differences in the way the state was accounting for cash that was transferred over to colleges and universities,” according to the elected accountant. Specifically, he referenced “a huge amount of Covid money.”

A billion here … a billion there, right?

Within two months, Eckstrom had resigned under pressure … and lawmakers were already engaged in a spitball fight over his replacement. Unable to settle on a successor, they punted to governor Henry McMaster – who made an interim appointment.

As for the money? It was chalked up to a “reporting error,” not a “cash error.”

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This week, anomalies are back in the news as S.C. auditor George Kennedy revealed the Palmetto State was apparently in much better shape financially than anyone realized.

How much better? A cool $1.8 billion better.

According to Kennedy, this money has been sitting in a “flow-through” account for the past five years.

“The net amount in this account should always be zero,” Kennedy told lawmakers, according to a post from state senator Mike Fanning. “It has always been zero.”

Five years ago, though, this “flow-through” or “clearing” account inexplicably registered at $1.8 billion – and has remained at this level ever since.

“Who does the money belong to?” Fanning asked Kennedy. “Where was it supposed to go?”

According to Kennedy’s magic eight-ball, the reply is hazy. No one knows who “owns” this pot of money, he told state lawmakers.

(Click to View)

South Carolina state auditor George Kennedy addresses a Senate subcommittee about a $1.8 billion funding discrepancy discovered by his office. (Facebook)

To his credit, Fanning acknowledged precisely who “owns” this pile of cash.

“This is taxpayer money,” Fanning noted.

Indeed … and it needs to stay that way. Based on the latest state revenue projections (.pdf) – which call for an estimated $400 million general fund surplus – there should be absolutely no issue whatsoever with lawmakers putting every single cent of this $1.8 billion into taxpayer rebates.

Put another way, they have no excuse to spend this money on bloated bureaucracy – when it could instead provide a huge stimulus to taxpayers and business owners who are struggling to make ends meet in our current hyper-inflationary climate.

For those of you keeping score at home, South Carolina’s “Republican” supermajority – or rather the special interest-led uniparty which likes to masquerade as a GOP supermajority – has been spending money hand over fist. “Republican” lawmakers blew a record $38.8 billion in the current fiscal year budget – which ends on June 30, 2024. And they are currently in the process of writing the budget for fiscal year 2024-2025, which according to our sources could eclipse $40 billion.

That is definitionally unsustainable, people … something I have been preaching for years.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly has grown government faster than taxpayers’ ability to pay for it for decades, ignoring calls for broad-based income tax relief along the way. Once … just once … they need to put their bloated, ineffectual bureaucracies and crony capitalist overlords on the back burner and give the money back to the people for a change.

Individuals, taxpayers, and small businesses are struggling mightily right now. And while permanent tax cuts are infinitely preferable to one-time rebates, this pot of money could be a lifeline for these taxpayers and businesses – and the people who are relying on them to make ends meet.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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8 comments

Kevin February 16, 2024 at 4:03 pm

Yes!
Hell yes!
Send our tax dollars back to us!

Reply
SAS February 16, 2024 at 4:08 pm

The accounting should not be that hard. The Comptroller General needs a good bookkeeper.
I took 2 years of accounting in college and I am willing!

Reply
Jamie February 16, 2024 at 6:18 pm

I would love to receive a tax rebate from the state. Inflation is up, interest rates are up and college tuition is way up. It would be a big help to receive some money back.

Reply
Republican voter February 17, 2024 at 8:16 am

Why did Governor MCMaster and the Republican controlled legislature appoint a democrat to be Comptroller?

Reply
J Doe February 18, 2024 at 9:28 am

This really should not be a political position. It should go to the most qualified person. In this case, that person happens to be a Democrat (assuming you are correct regarding his political leanings).

Reply
Cardgirl56 Top fan February 17, 2024 at 8:41 am

$3.5 Billion Anomaly then a $1.8 Billion surprise? Something fishy is going on. Accounting is not that hard! Seriously, if there is this kind of extra money, why are S.C. roads a nightmare?

Reply
Marcia Cooper Top fan February 17, 2024 at 9:08 am

Reference to the refund: and yet they wont. I will be shocked if they do.

Reply
Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan February 17, 2024 at 9:13 am

What stood out to me most in this article is the person dressing like a clown . . . neon green socks and yellow shoes. Want respect? Don’t wear a clown suit suitable for a circus . Oh wait! It seems South Carolina IS a circus, a three-ring circus.

Reply

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