BY PHILLIP CEASE
Revolving door at bank is bad for everyone else
It’s the week before Christmas and the last thing on anyone’s mind is a state board whose acronym sounds like something an over-the-counter pill wouldn’t fix. But the STIB, which met last week, should have made headlines.
The State Transportation Infrastructure Bank’s mission is “to focus greater attention on larger transportation projects, and thereby allow [the state Department of Transportation] to devote resources to other important transportation projects.”
In common parlance, the STIB issues bonds (takes on debt) for building new roads and expanding existing ones, while leaving DOT to figure out how to maintain the state’s roads without a depleted budget.
Leave aside many of the common complaints and criticisms of the STIB – and there are plenty – and consider a new problem. The STIB board is made up of seven members with the majority of them appointed by two legislative leaders – the speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate. Each of these get two appointments – one from their respective chamber and one other appointment.
When the board met last week, the new board was listed on the agenda with one eyebrow-raising change. Until his term ended a few weeks ago, Chip Limehouse was the Speaker’s appointment to the board. When the Charleston representative’s term ended, his replacement to the board was named: Rep. Garry Simrill. Yet Limehouse remains on the board.
Limehouse was given the seat of a Greenville developer, Bo Aughtry. Aughtry’s term had expired and he may not have wanted to be reappointed. But the appointment of a legislator whose term ended just a few weeks ago gives one some idea of how incestuous South Carolina’s legislature is.
The STIB board wields a lot of power. It’s one of the main reasons the state prioritizes new roads and expansions in politically important counties over needed maintenance. So increasing the number of politicians on the board seems perverse.
The revolving door of former legislators seeking to extend their power and influence as lobbyists, judges, or members of state boards is spinning faster and faster these days.
Boards like the STIB – and there are scores of others – make crucial decisions about public money and resources. Filling them with former legislators only furthers the General Assembly’s domination of state government and entrenches the problems that domination has already caused.