Many politicians and other government officials don’t want to publicly acknowledge the huge surpluses that state agencies accumulate year after year.

Even amid the coronavirus outbreak in South Carolina, 101 state agencies and two major state accounts collectively ended the fiscal year on June 30 with at least $4.3 billion in “other” fund surpluses, The Nerve found in a review of records provided by the S.C. Department of Administration under the state Freedom of Information Act.

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Turlte over the finishing line

Motorists in South Carolina are now paying 8 cents more per gallon since the state gas-tax-hike law took effect in July 2017 – and will face another collective 4-cent increase over the next two years.

But repairs to the state’s pothole-riddled roads still have been moving at a slow pace.

Newly released S.C. Department of Transportation records show that since July 1, 2017, through July 31 of this year, the total dollar value of completed “pavements” projects statewide was less than half of the total estimated cost of all such projects.

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The S.C. Department of Commerce started fiscal 2021 with a $103.1 million general-fund surplus – more than double its reserves from a year ago.

The S.C. House of Representatives had a $23.7 million surplus as of July 1 for its 124-member chamber – nearly $1 million more than its entire budget, records show.

Those amounts were part of $623.5 million in total general-fund surpluses among state agencies and several major state accounts at the end of fiscal 2019-20, according to a report by state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom.

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As University of South Carolina and Clemson University students return to in-person or online classes amid the coronavirus spread, what remains constant at the state’s two largest colleges is the growing number of well-paid employees.

As of July 7, the 48,000-student USC, which has eight campuses statewide, had 1,193 employees earning at least $100,000 annually – 54 more than a year ago and 163 more compared to the same period in 2018, The Nerve found in a review of the state salary database.

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Gov. Henry McMaster has once again granted the S.C. Department of Commerce – which isn’t a public health agency – the power to make health-related decisions in response to the coronavirus outbreak in the state.

Last week, McMaster announced that “gatherings,” defined in his executive order as a “planned or spontaneous indoor or outdoor event that involves or is reasonably expected to involve a large number people physically present,” must be limited to 250 people or 50% of the location’s legal occupancy capacity, whichever is less.

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Auto Industry

S.C. politicians routinely love to make promises about massive corporate investment and multitudes of new jobs in the Palmetto State.

But the secretly crafted written agreements offering taxpayer-backed incentives in exchange for those promised jobs and investment often don’t live up to the official hype.

Last month, The Nerve detailed how for years state commerce and revenue officials failed to adequately track new jobs that benefiting companies were required to create.

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SC Pot Holes 7 2020

As residents and tourists hit South Carolina roads this July 4th holiday weekend, they will contend with plenty of potholes and higher state gasoline taxes.

Meanwhile, newly released records show that the S.C. Department of Transportation – the agency tasked with fixing pothole-riddled, state-maintained roads, continues to sit on massive reserves – more than $563 million as of May 31 – generated by the gas-tax-hike law that took effect three years ago.

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Tourism Traveler

Spending more tax dollars on tourism advertising and incentives for manufacturers are among proposals to jump-start South Carolina’s economy, which took a severe blow with government-imposed shutdowns following the coronavirus outbreak.

The recommendation for increased tourism advertising is contained in a final report released last week by “accelerateSC,” an advisory committee created by Gov. Henry McMaster in April and made up of public- and private-sector representatives. It’s also among proposals listed in the “GrowSC Agenda,” released this week by a group of chambers of commerce and other business organizations statewide.

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Covid 19 SC

The S.C. Department of Transportation initially wanted more than $1 million worth of hand sanitizer.

The state Department of Administration requested 1,500 laptop computers and related equipment totaling nearly $468,000.

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The last few months have been trying.  Governors across the nation locked down their states over concerns of the unknown facts about COVID-19.  Now, we have a better understanding of this virus, and cases are declining.  Ask your Governor today to put citizens back to work! 

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Sorry Were Close Due to Covid 19

Having customers in his Columbia glass art shop posed no public threat, if you ask Tom Lockart of One Eared Cow Glass.

Yet after Gov. Henry McMaster put the S.C. Department of Commerce in charge of deciding what businesses are allowed to stay open or which must close when “clarification” requests are made, Lockart’s store made the official “non-essential” list.

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Coronavirus 2020

Local governments all over the state are adopting emergency measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak – but not all of them are making their emergency declarations and ordinances easily accessible. 

State law allows local governments to pass emergency ordinances in one meeting without giving the public any notice or a chance to read them first, and a number of local governments’ emergency actions are either incompletely published, difficult to find – or not published at all, leaving citizens in the dark on what their local officials actually enacted. 

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FAN South Carolina Logo

Last week, between making sure my kids did their schoolwork and grocery shopping, I saw on the TV that my Mayor had declared a “state of emergency”.

It went in one ear and out the other.

With all the turmoil going on, I didn’t really pay much attention what the Mayor of Mount Pleasant had declared.

I didn’t think it mattered.

When I hear about a local politician declaring a “state of emergency” two things come to mind:

1. They’re trying to get in the news to appear as if they’re “working hard”
2. It’s part of the “official” process to become eligible for help from the federal government...like when a hurricane strikes the state or county
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Every 10 years, S.C. lawmakers re-exert their authority to draw legislative and congressional district lines based on updated population counts – a typically convoluted process aimed at protecting incumbents.

While the 2020 U.S. Census is underway, state lawmakers quietly are planning to initially spend as much as $2 million on the “reapportionment” process, or the redrawing of district lines.

How those lines are drawn – largely controlled by legislative leaders – can greatly affect who wins elections, which areas are best represented, and what legislation gets approved.

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Convention of States & BBA Thurs. Feb. 13

The hearing will be starting at about 12:30 pm

Please contact the members of this South Carolina Special Committee
Please share this alert with like-minded friends and family

H3017 Article V Balanced Budget Amendment https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/3017.htm
H3125 Article V Convention of States https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/3125.htm

HEARING: Thursday, February 13, starts about 12:30pm Room 516 Blatt.

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SC State Capitol

A legislatively controlled committee violated state law in recent years by not giving the General Assembly annual performance reviews of individual S.C. Public Service Commission members, who set utility rates for residents and businesses statewide, a review by The Nerve found.

Timing could be everything.

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