Bureaucratic Middle Men in State Government



South Carolina’s state budget now tops $24 billion – a staggering sum (and just to put that in perspective, remember: a billion is a thousand millions – and state government takes 24 of those out of the private economy for just one year). With a budget that large, the state now has to maintain a small army of government employees just to spend the money.

Here’s one way of thinking about it. There are state employees who perform core services: law enforcement officers, judges, prison guards, traffic engineers, and so on. There are a far greater number of state employees who perform non-core services: university administrators, agriculture program managers, public television producers, regulatory development directors, and so on. But with a budget and government as large as South Carolina’s, we must now hire people who don’t perform any specific service except the “service” of appropriating money.

These “middle man” employees’ sole purpose is to choose how to appropriate taxpayer money. They’re known as Economic Development Managers, Procurement Officers, and Grants Administrators/Coordinators. They are the middle men in the revenue-flow process: taxpayers > legislators > middle man bureaucrats > whatever middle-man bureaucrat decides to fund.

Constitutionally, the legislature alone has the power to appropriate tax dollars. With a budget of $24 billion, however, legislators simply can’t be expected to know what they’re spending money on or how to spend it – and so unelected and effectively anonymous bureaucrats are given that power.

How many of these bureaucrats are we paying for each year, and how much is it costing us? (Note: the following employment data only includes state employees with annually salaries over $50,000, since this is the only data the Budget and Control Board provides.)

Economic Development Managers

While there are countless state employees who work in the field of government-created “economic development,” there are currently at least 27 “Economic Development Managers” working for the Department of Commerce; the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; and the Department of Transportation. South Carolina spends hundreds of millions of tax dollars annually on grants, loans, and tax incentives on companies chosen by legislators and bureaucrats, including multi-billion dollar corporations like Boeing. Taxpayers are currently paying nearly $1.9 million annually on these 27 employees alone, whose main role is to pick and choose which companies ought to receive taxpayer dollars and tax favors.

Procurement Officers

Currently, taxpayers are spending over $5.7 million annually on 91 procurement officers, including Directors, Managers, and Specialists. Employees with procurement duties contain a great deal of power: they decide which companies get state contracts (an exchange of tax dollars for company services). With much procurement power given to the Budget and Control Board, state agencies throughout the budget have procurement officers with the power to contract.

Grants Administrators and Coordinators

Over $5 million annually is currently being spent on 85 state Grant Administrators and Coordinators. These state employees look for – and lobby for – additional taxpayer-funded grants for state agencies and choose who gets to receive these grants. Most of these employees work for higher education institutions.

None of this is meant to imply anything about the employees referenced. But taxpayers should realize that currently it takes at least $12 million – and no doubt the real number is far above that amount – just to aid in the process of appropriating tax dollars. That alone suggests the scale of the problem of government growth.

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