Originally created 03/14/97

Ax costly S.C. desks

Politicians have an infinite capacity to rationalize just about anything, and one need not tune into a Bill Clinton news conference to see the phenomenon at work.

South Carolinians got an earful the other day when House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, justified spending $283,000 on new mahogany desks for the renovated Statehouse. That breaks down to be a whopping $2,300 per desk.

Any smart shopper knows there are good, practical desks out there lawmakers can do their work on that don't cost quite so much. Since they're buying in bulk, it should even be easy to find above-quality desks at a "sale" price.

Yet Wilkins believes taxpayers demand only the best. "We want something the people of this state can be proud of," he says. (How can he keep a straight face?)

South Carolinians want a lot of things from their Legislature: more money for education, roads, health care, job training - even tax breaks for themselves. But Wilkins and his fellow Republicans are deluding themselves if they think any taxpayers are clamoring to buy them expensive mahogany desks!

Though this may seem like a minor matter, it's such small issues - which the public easily understands - that get voters angry. If the GOP House majority wastes money on desks, maybe it's wasting money in other, more complicated areas as well.

This fact is not lost on Minority Leader Jim Hodges, D-Lancaster. He has received more mail on the desk topic than any other. Most of his troops voted for a (defeated) amendment to divert $600,000 proposed for Statehouse furniture into education.

If the Wilkins plan isn't derailed, the speaker will stupidly hand Democrats a big issue in next year's elections. Fortunately for him it looks like it will be derailed. The Democrat-controlled Senate is "studying" the House bill; that usually means it's dead.


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