The well-heeled natives are restless

Have you read this story in today’s paper? If not, go ahead and read it now; I’ll wait.

OK, ready?

Well, there’s nothing surprising about this. Practical people in our state — and business types are nothing if not practical — have been murmuring about the governor for some time. Either they think he’s got his head in the clouds and his ideas aren’t grounded in reality, or they like his ideas, but are turned off by his ineffectiveness in putting them into action. Either way, it’s the theory-versus-real-world disconnect that turns them off.

What IS remarkable is that the situation — particularly the state’s economy — has gotten bad enough that they’re talking about it publicly.

This puts a number of things into an interesting framework. Take the recent comments by both Bobby Harrell and Gresham Barrett — two Republicans who are well positioned to run for governor, assuming it all of a sudden becomes fashionable to take on an incumbent of their own party. They have not been deaf to the murmuring. And while he protests vehemently that he is NOT trying to challenge the governor, Mr. Harrell has turned his "the governor’s not doing enough to grow jobs" theme into a regular Rotary Club speech. Or dare I say, "stump speech?"

Note also that these two Republicans are attacking (and not all that gently, given the circumstances) the governor in the one area that’s likely to get business types nodding their heads in agreement, particularly after the recent loss of the state’s AAA bond rating.

This will bear watching. As the governor himself is fond of saying, "To be continued…"

10 thoughts on “The well-heeled natives are restless

  1. John Warner

    Like the Governor, many of us have a sense that we’re spending enough money in the state government, we’re just not spending it as efficiently as we should. The plethora of higher education in the state, which the Governor frequently points to, is a great example of our problem. There is no question that we have too many colleges and universities, but not enough truly outstanding ones. We may need the equivalent of the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) Commission to rationalize higher education spending.
    It’s fine to point out what we shouldn’t do, but it is more important to develop a consensus about what we should do to be successful. In recent years, we’ve made progress in the state in shifting from an economic development model based on being cheap labor, cheap land, and incentives, to one based on creating a highly productive and innovative economy. While we’re working together better, we’re still not collaborating across the state like we should. We lack a strong leader with a compelling vision of the future that can pull us together to achieve a common prosperity.
    With due respect to the tremendous contributions Bob Royals has made to the state, a 70 year old ex-banker is not likely to be the person to lead us to a more knowledge-based future.
    I’m hoping for a leader to step up and define a future where companies, universities, technical colleges, and public schools have a close partnership to develop and retain talent in SC. Where an entrepreneurial infrastructure fosters independent, high-impact companies which creates wealth that stays local and is recycled into the next generation of companies and community organizations. Where we celebrate our diversity as a competitive advantage in a global economy and work to make sure that everyone in the state has a seat at the table.
    Can the Governor or another current political leader provide that vision? If not, where will that person come from?

  2. The Kid

    It is indeed a pity that the governor has not streamlined our governmental structure, rationalized taxes, and reformed the state’s tort system. Perhaps the business leaders Bandied about could lend the Guv some support in those areas or at least cast a few aspersions in the direction of the mutual back-scratching in the state senate. At least they’re not as craven and greedy as some other legislators who’ve made the news of late.
    Any candidate for governor is eager to tell you what s/he’s going to do, but what we need to hear is how and why each is going to accomplish what’s promised. Had SC’s governor more oversight of state agencies, we’d surely get some efficiencies, responsiveness, and transparency, as we would if commissions, agencies, boards, and other governmental organizations were structured logically. We might end up with fewer places to employ our state solons’ relatives. I know you agree with these points. Any savings could be used to attract businesses, pay off bonds, or put into a rainy day fund.
    Moving past agreeable ideas, if one looks at a chart like this, she can see that the SC personal income tax rate stands out among our peers in the southeast because it’s higher and flatter. It’s not just retirees who take numbers like this into account, but a business-owner would too. How can we best welcome those who live in states that have warned them quite clearly to get out before they die?
    I’m no expert in this stuff, but it seems that any state would be a winner that could offer these:

    – A fair tax structure, transparent government,
    – reasonable land prices,
    – reformed torts,
    – available power and water (especially for manufacturers)
    – reliable communications (rail, interstate, air, especially for manufacturers)
    – reliable employee pool
    – maybe a couple of bucks to help with relocation.

    It seems to me like the Guv’s been headed in that direction. As for replacements, we’ve got to ask potential candidates for the details on how they’re going to get things done.

  3. John Warner

    The Kid
    Your chart demonstrates the difficulty with your argument. In 1970, Columbia had a higher per capita income than Raleigh. After 30 years of the Research Triangle Park, Raleigh has soared past Columbia.
    Your chart shows that North Carolina’s income tax rates are higher than South Carolina’s, and by a wide margin. So income tax rates aren’t the difference.
    While there is plenty of room to make government more efficient, we can not cut our way to prosperity. We need a leader who can build a consensus around a strong vision for what the state can become.

  4. Bob Coble

    In “The State” today there is a front page article by Jim Hammond and Grant Jackson, “S.C. has work to do in hydrogen fuel race.” The article discusses two reports on South Carolina’s plans and abilities to enter into the new hydrogen economy. Most people would agree that hydrogen fuel cells/hydrogen energy represents the greatest opprotunity to transform Columbia and S.C.’s economy and create jobs and raise our per capita incomes. As the article points out, we have many advantages in research but a long way to go to create a business environment to take advantage of our assets. On October 4, 2005 at the annual meeting of Engenuity, we will outline our Next Energy 20 year strategic plan to enter the hydrogen economy. This is the ICF report the article discusses. Of all the things Columbia and South Carolina can do to improve our economy, this must be at the top of the list.

  5. Tim

    John Warner (as always) raises pertinent issues. Many of us – including Democrats like me – believed Mark Sanford would be that Governor, and he can’t lay his failure to realize that potential solely at the feet of a recalcitrant legislature.

  6. Mark Whittington

    When one reads the comments of those who contribute to this website, one has to be impressed by the knowledge and commitment of the contributors. The ideas presented here seem to be, for the most part, good ideas. Undoubtedly, hydrogen fuel development has the propensity to succeed if it is pursued vigorously. I wonder though, considering South Carolina’s considerable coastline, if we should make ocean power a priority also.
    Perhaps we should experiment with Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion and wave/tidal power to generate inexpensive electrical energy, which in turn could be used for the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen, which in turn could be used for fuel cells and for the creation of metal hydrides (which would be safe for automotive applications). I mean, let’s make the whole system in order to establish future standards.

  7. John Warner

    Bob Coble is a great example of the type of leader we need in the state – someone who has a passionate vision of a shared prosperity that builds a consensus for action.
    South Carolina does have considerable hydrogen assets, and we should try to leverage them. But there is a lot of hype in, “hydrogen fuel cells/hydrogen energy represents the greatest opportunity to transform Columbia and S.C.’s economy.” We don’t what the next fuel will be in coming decades, or how long the shift from hydrocarbons will take. South Carolina has assets, but we are also woefully behind in areas of commercialization that count, so even if hydrogen does win, we do not know if South Carolina can be more than a marginal player.
    Michael Porter said, “It is not the industries you compete in, but how you compete in the industries you are in.” The greatest overlap in academic and industry research in the state is in advanced materials – from the USC NanoCenter to the Clemson Advanced Materials Research Center, from the Milliken Research Corporation to the Michelin Americas Research and Development Corporation. Advanced materials can invigorate existing industries from automotive and aviation to textiles. The potential of nanotechnologies to transform the world we live in is at least as great and hydrogen energy, and it is much clearer how South Carolina can be a winner.
    There are other industries that are and will continue to be important foundations for the state’s economy, like tourism and hospitality. We should focus on making those industries highly innovative and productive as well.
    Bob wasn’t suggesting this, but we don’t need to put all our eggs in one basket. We need a balanced approach to inventing the future. Most of all, we need leaders that can light the path to getting there.

  8. Lee

    North Carolina does not have higher tax rates than South Carolina. I have worked many a year in RTP, where I have had to pay the top rates, and still owe the difference to SC. Illinois has half the rate as SC, and the rates are more graduated. SC has not adjusted its brackets for inflation, another way the politicians cheat the taxpayers.
    The only business people who want to replace Sanford are the ones who want more protection and more handouts. The problem is that that includes The State and other newspapers and media.

  9. Craven

    Shame on you, you fat cat corporate-loving legislators giving your guvm’t protection and handouts to those country-clubbing CEO’s. Next thing you know you’ll want to abolish the income tax in order to, as you expressly state, attract more country-clubbing CEO’s to our beautiful, tax-free state.
    *blink* *blink* … wait uh second…
    Oh yeah, that was the other guy… the one with the piglets crapping all over the statehouse (heckuva laugh, I gotta admit) whose big plan for the economy was to bring retired (NOTE: *retired*) corporate execs into SC. Hey you, on Hilton Head! Off the golf course and up 26 to Columbia! To heck with your salted-away millions and dedicate your remaining golden years to helping me and these two squealers alienate my last three friends in the General Assembly!
    …Ryberg, stopping running away! What, they don’t have swine in Wisconsin???
    And it’s a good thing we’ve got our pig chaser in office… after all, his master plan will only cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, deflate our credit rating, bankrupt state agencies, and lead to mass starvation in many rural counties. What the heck… I hear the schools in Marion are crap anyway.
    So three cheers for Governor Piggy… who’s bold enough to come up with real [CENSORED] ideas and strong enough to withstand the ferocity of even the most blistering of common sense rebuttals…

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