Election update: working a rigged system – and winning!

In keeping with the Network’s analysis that there are few races that aren’t preordained in South Carolina, through gerrymandered districts and other tools that rig the system, SC ProVote, the Network’s C-4, picked two campaigns on which to spend our resources.

In the campaign for Senate District 17 (Fairfield, Chester and York), we supported Mike Fanning, a progressive candidate who we thought had a solid chance at winning. In the other campaign, our mission was to remove the Lee Bright from Senate District 12 (Greenville, Spartanburg) by promoting his Republican opposition.


Mike Fanning speaks to at the Network’s annual fall conference at Penn Center.

We are pleased to report that our preferred candidates won in both races.

Progressive Network member Fanning forced a run-off and beat the longtime Democratic incumbent Creighton Coleman. Network volunteers made hundreds of phone calls and our Rock Hill chapter knocked on many doors in the York County portion of the district. We are thrilled that he will be an ally in the State House.

Sen. Lee Bright, the indefatigable bigot who wages futile battles against civilization, will not be going back to the Senate. Our upstate members made calls to Democrats encouraging them to vote for Spartanburg attorney Scott Talley in the June primary. We know Talley from his time in the House and consider him rational. While we don’t expect Tally to be progressive, we are reminded that there are no permanent friends, or permanent enemies in the legislature, only temporary allies.

Crossover voting in the primary has long been a taboo. But now that political districts have been drawn to insure Republican dominance of the legislature, Democrats in these districts won’t have a say in who represents them unless they vote in the Republican primary. 75% of the 170 legislators are chosen in the primary, so the majority of citizens only have one person to vote for in the general election – like the old Soviet style elections we used to make fun of.

The Network has long argued that we can’t rely on an electoral system that is driven by money and corporate influence to solve our problems. We must take on and sustain, the long, hard task of building a popular movement with the power to make real change.

As Senate takes up budget, town hall panel to debate role of special-interest tax breaks

Is South Carolina broke? That’s what the governor and a majority of the state legislature are saying. What if the state isn’t broke, but is leaving billions in revenue out of the budget because of special-interest tax breaks?

That’s the question to be debated at a town hall meeting April 27, 7pm, at the SC State Museum, 301 Gervais St. in Columbia. The forum is free and open to the public.

With the Senate set to begin debate on the budget April 26, it’s important that the public have a say in our funding priorities. The town hall was organized because the Senate is not allowing any opportunity for public comment during its deliberations.

The town hall will debate the argument that the state is broke, and will provide striking details about the $4 billion left out of the budget through special tax breaks.

Dr. Holley Ulbrich, Professor Emerita of Economics at Clemson University, will present the case that there is sufficient revenue to fund a moral budget that reflects our values as a society. “By any measure, our state and local tax system has failed to reflect our shared values of justice, of freedom, of compassion, and of opportunity,” Ulbrich said. “Instead, we have focused on tax cuts and failed to update our antiquated revenue system, standing idly by while our tax base continues to erode.”

Dr. Mike Fanning, who has been working with Chambers of Commerce across the state to promote comprehensive tax reform, will lay out the case to lower taxes and balance the budget. “How can a state claim to be broke?” Fanning asked. “Our legislators choose to collect taxes at twice the rate needed to run government while giving away billions in special interest exemptions.”

Network Director Brett Bursey said, “The Chambers of Commerce and the Progressive Network agree that tax breaks are leaving too much money on the table and that our political leadership refuses to acknowledge that the money exists. When the public understands we’re not broke and forces the politicians to reform the tax code, then we can have a productive fight over how to spend the money.”

The Chambers would use the revenue to reduce state taxes and balance the budget. The Network wants the money to enhance the budget and fund crumbling public services. The legislature and the governor are opposed to raising revenue, and see no alternative to cutting government programs.

After a panel discussion, the public will be invited to ask questions and make comments. This is a 90-minute opportunity for the public to understand that South Carolina is not broke, and that the real debate should be over what to do with the additional revenue.

A 2011 study by the Tax Foundation found that South Carolinians have the lowest state income tax burden in the nation and rank 43rd in combined state and local taxes.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, with 34 “first world” member nations, ranks the United States 33rd in collection of taxes, compared to the country’s wealth. Only Mexico ranked lower.