Rankin Mailer Filled with Political Speak

By Paul Gable

Every election season, voters are inundated with mailers, television and radio ads and pronouncements on social media about the qualities of candidates and the alleged successes of incumbents.

South Carolina law only requires two things on these various campaign missives to be truthful – who paid for the ad, mailer, etc. and the mailing address of the paying person or entity. The remainder can be filled with “political speak” which does not have to bear any resemblance to the facts.

This week voters in SC Senate District 33 received a mailer from incumbent Sen. Luke Rankin extolling how Rankin had “delivered” for the citizens of his district. But, in its search for “deliveries”, the Rankin piece went down “roads” traveled by many other people.

Under the heading of “Infrastructure Enhancements”, the mailer claims Rankin “led the charge to fund $1.8 billion in Horry Co. road improvements, with $4 billion more to come in the next 5 years – paid overwhelmingly by our 14 million annual tourists.”

I checked with several county council members to determine which road improvements in the county could be directly tied to $1.8 billion Rankin had secured for the county from state funds, not to mention an additional $4 billion in the next five years. They all claimed to not know what he was talking about and wondered where the money was.

It appears Rankin is trying to take credit for funds generated from the several RIDE (Road Improvement Development Effort) initiatives since 2006. The future $4 billion claim appears to be the 25-year (not 5) which county council appears to be seriously considering to be put to a ballot referendum in November 2024. This conclusion is borne out by the statement that the funds are overwhelmingly paid by the tourists.

RIDE funds come from approval by the voters of a one-cent local option sales tax to pay for projects approved by county council, as will the $4 billion over 25 years if the voters approve the upcoming referendum. They do not come from anything Rankin did in Columbia.

The initial RIDE 1 referendum was defeated by the voters and county council funded the Conway Bypass (SC22) project by instituting the Hospitality Fee in Horry County. None of the money came from specific earmarks in the state budget.

The DOT reform the Rankin mailer so proudly points out included an increase of 10 cents in fuel tax at the pump as part of general legislation passed by the entire General Assembly, not one member.

There is a proposed $2 million (with an “M”) for a multi-use pathway along the county rail line between Conway and Myrtle Beach in the current Senate budget proposals for next year. However, $2 million is a far cry from the claims of a total of $5.8 billion.

Rankin’s opponent in the upcoming June 2024 Republican Primary election, Autry Benton, came out of the gate last fall criticizing the amount of road funding help the county receives from the state when compared to the likes of the Charleston, Columbia and Greenville areas. It appears the Rankin mailer is a very poor attempt to counter Benton’s message to voters.

As for the tax cuts section of the mailer, there is a proposal to reduce the personal income tax rate in the Senate proposed budget for the next fiscal year. However, the House budget seems to be leaning to tax rebates and the ultimate decision is still to be worked out in conference. The elimination of food items from state sales tax accompanied a bill which raised the state sales tax overall and the General Assembly is required to balance the state budget every year by state law. Nothing there which can be attributed to “delivery” by Rankin.

And in the education portion, expanded pre-school availability and the one-half year requirement for high school students to study personal finance were general legislation passed by the entire General Assembly. A parental rights bill failed to get out of committee in the past two legislative sessions of that body.

The Rankin campaign is going down a “Dead End” road if it is going to continue to flood voters with “political speak” mail.  

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