Originally created 11/06/02

Comptroller win increases GOP's power



COLUMBIA - Richard Eckstrom's win in the comptroller's general race means more than just another Republican in statewide office.

Mr. Eckstrom also gets a seat on the state Budget and Control Board and that, along with Republican Mark Sanford's win in the governor's race, gives the GOP a 4-1 edge on the panel charged with the day-to-day operation of South Carolina's budget.

With 92 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Mr. Eckstrom received about 54 percent of the votes, compared with incumbent Democrat Jim Lander's 46 percent.

The Budget and Control Board seat is important because in a September meeting, the two Republicans on the board wanted to pass budget cuts, which the three Democrats blocked.

The Republicans were reacting to a report warning that state revenues could fall more than $300 million below estimates this year.

The Democrats said the board should wait and see whether an improving economy increases revenues enough to offset cuts. Republicans said revenues would have to increase by more than 10 percent to prevent budget cuts and wanted to take money from state agencies immediately.

Now the board has just one Democrat, Treasurer Grady Patterson, who won re-election Tuesday.

Mr. Eckstrom, a Columbia accountant who served as state treasurer from 1995 to 1999, called the Budget and Control Board's decision not to make the cuts political and said the Democrats could not justify the move.

Mr. Eckstrom, 54, said the accounting practices in the comptroller general's office, which pays the state's bills, are lacking and said the office needed someone with his type of accounting background to straighten things out.

Mr. Lander, 72, spent six years in the state Senate before being elected comptroller general in 1998.