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I read with interest the editorial by Frank Knapp Jr., CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, that was published in the Oct, 15 edition of The Lancaster News.
He slanted his article in such a manner that it appeared all South Carolina small business owners had been harmed by Sen. Mick Mulvaney’s decision to vote against legislation brought before both the House and Senate.
This legislation mandated that a certain percentage of goods and services contracted and paid for with state dollars would have to be allocated in such a way to guarantee employment of contractors located within our state.
Forcing our state’s procurement system to spend our tax money here at home is most certainly an excellent way to improve our economy and create more jobs, is what I read in Mr. Knapp’s column.
On the surface, who in his right mind would vote against such an obvious benefit to local vendors and contractors? Well, one of the traits I have witnessed from watching Mr. Mulvaney in action is that he is not a surface thinker.
I live in his district and he has been my representative to the S.C. House and Senate, and now, I, a South Carolina small businessman, hopes he gets the chance to exercise his level of thinking in Washington, D.C., where we can surely use people who can see beyond the surface and into the depth of a matter.
During his tenure as my representative in the State Legislature, I have observed that Mulvaney tends to analyze the long-term effects of his actions prior to casting his vote.
Though I have not asked him, nor do I really know his exact reasons for taking such an obviously unpopular stance in this issue, I will say Mr. Mulvaney voted the exact way I would have voted had Mr. Knapp and his organization asked my opinion of the matter.
As I noted, Mr. Mulvaney’s reasons are unknown to me, but I do, however, know that I would object to a mandate, another law on our crowded books, that forces contractors working within our state to subcontract 20 to 40 percent of their outsourcing to South Carolina small businesses for the following reasons:
1. Mr. Knapp purported the notion of “letting the free market reign” as being some sort of Libertarian nonsense. I’m sorry, did I miss something here?
As an American, I kind of like the idea of free market enterprise. As a small businessman having to compete with larger firms, I desire free market to remain honestly competitive.
I need to know that the work I produce and place into our market will be judged, and accepted or declined on a fair and equal playing field. If I build a widget and try to sell it to you, I want you to be able to buy it on its own merit, not because the state tells you to do so.
In theory, it may sound good to force the use of South Carolina businesses within state contracts, but it is a problematic principle when applied in the American marketplace.
You would think the president and CEO of our Small Business Chamber would understand and promote this fundamentally American view as well.
2. South Carolina is a right-to-work state and we, including Knapp, are proud of it.
However, the fact of mandating a contractor use a particular group of workers sounds like union-speak to me. Here, within this bill, we are attempting to introduce union-type policy, albeit for seemingly good reason, into state contracts.
3. In my experience, when you limit or take away free market enterprise, or when certain groups know they are protected by law to be awarded state contract work, prices go up.
North Carolina suffered through this very problem in the mid-1970’s with state roadwork bids being awarded to in-state contractors, Collusion ran rampant, and the state paid triple what it should have paid for state highway construction.
As a small businessman, I don’t wish to pay higher taxes to support higher cost projects. If the low bidder is competent, and happens to be across the state line, so be it. Save me and my fellow taxpayers our money. Odds are we will use it to expand our businesses and put more folks on our in-state payrolls, or spend it within South Carolina anyway.
4. And finally, how does the state plan to police this action? I know of no department in our state or county building inspection, planning, DOT, DHEC or other agency that isn’t overburdened with work now.
Budgets have been cut and personnel is low. Where will the new inspectors come from to check contractors’ project awards against payrolls to evaluate ratios of in-state to out-of-state workers?
I guess we can look to the South Carolina taxpayer once again. One more straw on his back shouldn’t hurt too much, should it?
I realize the above rhetoric that complains of the shortsightedness of implementing legislative action to mandate keeping a certain percentage of state procurement dollars within the pockets of state-based contractors is all for naught. The bill supporting this concept was passed in 2009. But maybe it will illustrate there is more than one side to this issue, because as a South Carolina small businessman, I, for one, think it indicates both an uninformed and narrow-minded grasp of significant issues to have a bold headline stating that Mr. “Mulvaney’s record doesn’t support small business in S.C.”
Mr. Mulvaney just might be smarter than we think. He may have used his obvious intelligence and business acumen to determine this bill, seemingly was written to reward South Carolina businesses. This bill might just be a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Its implementation would push our state’s small businesses down another path of higher taxes, greater government involvement and tighter control of free enterprise.
I want this kind of thinker in Washington, D.C.
F. Roy Sansbury is a Van Wyck resident.