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By Ron Aiken | The Nerve
COLUMBIA — You already may know that South Carolina spends $896 million annually on economic development incentives, according to figures compiled in a recent 10-month study by The New York Times.
What you may not know is that figure, which breaks down to 15 cents of every tax dollar, or $194 per person, is doled out to companies in part by a group of 11 people at meetings held out of the public eye and, until Thursday, without any media present for at least the past five years.
Operating away from public scrutiny, the S.C. Coordinating Council for Economic Development greases the wheels of economic development through the approval of millions of dollars in grants and other incentives.
At its meeting Thursday, which The Nerve attended, the council approved $6 million worth of new grants for 12 non-confidential economic development projects. That figure doesn’t include the potential millions more involved with 16 additional confidential projects discussed in executive session, or the $2.12 million worth of previously approved grants that now require extensions to meet their requirements for disbursement.
Such is the authority and influence of the powerful council, which meets quarterly at the S.C. Department of Commerce‘s offices on the 16th floor of 1201 Main St. across from the statehouse.
If you’ve never been to a meeting, you’re hardly alone. In a recent review by The Nerve of council minutes dating back more than five years, not a single media member attended any meeting.
And, for at least five years, there was no media present at meetings of a five-member subcommittee of the council known as the Enterprise Program Committee, minutes show. That streak was broken when a Nerve reporter showed up at an October meeting.
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Tags: Coordinating Council for Economic Development, Department of Commerce, south carolina, The New York Times
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