Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

Post and Courier. April 6, 2024.

Editorial: Loftis’ performance should earn a spot on SC ballot — but not for reelection

South Carolina’s elected state treasurer made quite a spectacle of himself on Tuesday, demonstrating far better than state senators ever could why they’re worried that he’s been shirking his duties and bullying the state auditor.

As The Post and Courier’s Alexander Thompson and reporters for several other news organizations report, Curtis Loftis tried to shout down senators when they questioned why he remained silent for seven years about $1.8 billion in unspent state funds whose source and purpose no one seems to know. He pounded the lectern. He repeatedly stepped away in anger, said he wasn’t going to take any more, refused to answer some questions and at one point walked over to a table where reporters were seated to argue his case directly to them.

Mr. Loftis denounced questions about his work as “grossly unfair,” “disingenuous,” “shocking” and “highly irresponsible.” He insisted a report he had provided to explain fund balances was right and the Senate’s report was wrong — even though senators said the numbers were identical. He said that senators were endangering the state’s credit rating by grilling him in public about the state auditor’s decision to zero out a $456 million year-end deficit after talking with him.

His most remarkable claim was that he was ambushed by the Senate Finance panel. In fact, senators have been signaling for months that they’re concerned about Mr. Loftis’ role in the state’s latest fiscal mess; the questions did sometimes cross the line into badgering, but if he didn’t anticipate that, after watching the same panel grill then-Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom a year ago, Mr. Loftis is not smart enough to oversee even a tiny little state agency, much less the treasury.

Mr. Loftis told senators he didn’t alert them to the $1.8 billion mystery because that wasn’t his job. That’s a curious claim since his office requested that the mystery account be created to begin with, and he acknowledges it’s his job to get to the bottom of the mystery. Still, it might be a legitimate answer if it’s true, and if we were talking about $100,000. But even in state government, $1.8 billion is a significant amount of money.

There’s a law that says teachers, social workers, doctors and other “mandatory reporters” have to alert officials when certain thresholds are crossed and they encounter a child who shows signs of abuse. Maybe we need a law that says our financial guardians have to report to the Legislature whenever they become aware of a state financial problem that exceeds, oh, $1 billion.

That way Mr. Loftis wouldn’t be confused about when it is and isn’t his job to alert the Legislature — and the rest of us — about massive financial discrepancies.

Or maybe we just need to improve the odds that we don’t need such a law, that our financial guardians have enough sense and responsibility to let the Legislature know when they see such problems.

There were a lot of problems with the way Mr. Eckstrom handled the double-counting of at least $3.5 billion in state funds, but the central problem — the unforgiveable sin — was his refusal to alert the Legislature for a decade, as the problem mushroomed. The latest chapter in this financial oversight mess demonstrates that Mr. Loftis has committed the same sin. And just like Mr. Eckstrom, Mr. Loftis refuses to acknowledge there was anything inappropriate about his secrecy.

We’ve never liked the idea of forcing voters to hire two of the state’s top financial officials, who hold what Mr. Loftis admitted on Tuesday are ministerial positions; like the state auditor, the head of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office and countless other jobs that require measurable competence rather than political discretion, the comptroller and treasurer should be appointed by the governor.

The Senate wisely concluded that we’d be better off letting the governor appoint the comptroller, and so voted last month to put a constitutional question on the November ballot. The House should follow suit. And Mr. Loftis’ silence, inaction and now bully/victim theatrics should convince lawmakers to add a question about that other financial officer as well.


Times and Democrat. April 4, 2024.

Editorial: Get ready for spring cleaning on S.C. roads

Spring is a traditional time for cleaning.

The S.C. Department of Transportation and its employees are doing their part. The annual statewide highway litter cleanup event was held Wednesday. Called the “Spring Spruce Up,” the initiative involves employee volunteers working in groups to collect litter along roads in counties across the state.

Meanwhile, PalmettoPride and Keep South Carolina Beautiful are coordinating the Great South Carolina Cleanup, a localized cleanup, beautification and community-improvement program. Uniting South Carolina residents together for a common cause, the Great South Carolina Cleanup encourages citizens to revitalize their communities through litter cleanups.

Locally, Orangeburg County is supporting the effort with the 2024 Spring Challenge/Clean Where You Live/Work/Play. The effort began April 1 and concludes April 30. During that time, groups and/or individuals are asked to schedule a day for roadside cleanups. Volunteers can get bags, grabbers, gloves and vests for the effort and Orangeburg County Code Enforcement will pick up bags of litter. For more information, call code enforcement at 803-533-6162 or Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful at 803-534-2409 extension 8903.

In Bamberg County, a cleanup in Bamberg and Denmark was held March, with Bamberg County Council member Dr. Jonathan Goodman and Denmark council member Calvin Odom taking the lead.

Putting litter-cleanup efforts in perspective, consider the findings of a 2020 Keep American Beautiful study on litter in America.

The study is the most comprehensive look at litter in the country’s history. It provides “a valid, national estimate of litter along waterways in the U.S., and insights about the relationship between litter on waterways and roadways.”

A key finding will surprise you: Litter on roadways has been reduced by 54% since 2009.

But the scope of the problem remains massive. The study estimates there are 50 billion pieces of litter on the ground, and although roadway litter is down by more than 50%, there is slightly more litter along waterways.

Other findings show 90% of U.S. residents agree that litter is a problem for their state. There were an estimated 207 million pieces of PPE littered along U.S. roadways and waterways through early fall 2020. Estimates are that there are more than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile of highway in the U.S.

In thanking the SCDOT employee volunteers for doing their part to combat the problem, Acting Secretary of Transportation Justin Powell said clean roadsides support South Carolina’s economy and quality of life: “We want folks who live, work, and travel in South Carolina to enjoy driving on our state’s roads. Litter detracts from that experience and can even be a hazard.”

Residents are encouraged to show their pride in their communities and help keep their locales clean, as well as volunteer in the spring efforts.

Litter impacts everyone. It’s time for some spring cleaning.