So let's get this straight. Gov. Nikki Haley can turn down millions in federal funds to set up a health exchange. And Education Superintendent Mick Zais can refuse millions in federal dollars to help schools through the recession.
But the Legislature will happily accept millions from a federal foreclosure lawsuit settlement, and then hand the money over to businesses — instead of the victims?
Nice priorities. This week Stephen Largen reported that the state has received $31 million from a lawsuit to help homeowners who can't pay their mortgages and those who lost their homes because of illegal shenanigans by the nation's top lenders.
And what does the state House of Representatives want to do?
Give that money to the Commerce Department — the people who brought you Nikki Haley's Excellent Paris Adventure.
The settlement is pretty clear-cut.
In exchange for the Justice Department closing its investigation of these wonderful corporations (which are people, too), the banks agreed to pay out $1.5 billion to people who lost their homes due to flawed foreclosures, and $20 billion in relief to struggling homeowners.
Some of the rest is meant to help people who owe more than their homes are worth because of all this.
Unfortunately, the settlement gives the states great latitude for doling out that money. And the Republicans say it shouldn't go to homeowners, but for incentives to lure new business here.
“Our thought process was that the Commerce Department would be able to recruit and get people working,” said Rep. Brian White, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “You get people employed, that's a house payment and a paycheck.”
Translation: Sorry about your house, dude. Apply for a job at the Amazon warehouse. Fine print: There's no guarantee that foreclosure victims will land any of these jobs.
This is all about kissing up to companies, which give campaign contributions, and not caring about regular folks.
It's one thing to be pro-business, and it's quite another to be anti-taxpayer.
The Democrats have tried mightily to make sure this money is spent the way the settlement intended.
“It's wrong to take this money and use it for something else,” says state Rep. David Mack. “A lot of us argued against this, but it's along party lines and the Democrats are in the minority.”
It's bad enough the Republicans want to eliminate the corporate income tax (which is a tax on profits, not income). Now they want to use money meant to stabilize the housing market to try to lure companies to the state — where they won't pay taxes.
The state Senate at least wants $5 million of the money for the S.C. Housing Authority to spend on legal services for families facing foreclosure. That's not enough.
You know, neither party is always right or wrong. But this is cut and dry.
The Republicans are just dead wrong.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.