Why South Carolina Needs Palmetto Promise

September 22, 2017

In 2007, legislators in Columbia fast tracked and enacted the “Base Load Review Act” to facilitate what became known as the V.C. Summer nuclear project.

Little did they know at the time, this obscurely named law would become what is perhaps the most infamous tax-payer funded debacle in our state’s modern history.

By shifting the financial risk of building two nuclear power reactors from a private company (SCANA) to ratepayers, this law was structured to almost guaranteed inept management and cost overruns – in addition to literally guaranteeing SCANA to make a 10.25% profit.

Combined with politically appointed oversight that – though well-intentioned, lacked the expertise to manage a project of this scope – you have all the ingredients for a nuclear-grade taxpayer meltdown, even in the best of circumstances.

The results have been widely reported — ratepayers and taxpayers already on the hook for at least $6B (and yes, that’s “billion” with a “b”) and counting.

So how did we get here? And could it have been avoided?


The V.C. Summer catastrophe is the perfect case study for South Carolina’s gaping public policy hole and the need for data-driven, independent research paired with common-sense communications busy lawmakers and citizens can easily digest and act upon.

To fill this public policy void, a group of South Carolina entrepreneurs, philanthropists and policy leaders gathered together and put their personal resources on the line to create Palmetto Promise Institute. This group of leaders shared a common vision: to see South Carolina realize its full potential as a happier, healthier and more prosperous state.

Standing in they way of that vision are significant obstacles:

  • South Carolina is ranked 50th – or near that – in K-12 education
  • South Carolina is ranked 9th highest in poverty
  • Our tax code is uncompetitive and “necessitates” giving away huge tax breaks to attract out-of-state companies while sticking homegrown businesses with the bill and further eroding our already precarious tax base
  • Our changing demographics put a strain on tax payers. Currently 59 out of every hundred people consume benefits, e.g. education or health care. By 2030, the U.S. Census predicts figure will rise to 79 out of every 100, so that’s far fewer people paying for government service.
  • South Carolina’s lawmakers work part time with little staff, limited time and almost no truly independent research. Bills like the aforementioned “Base Load Review Act” are written by the companies that will benefit from them, ad hoc with siloed decision-making.

So how do we address these obstacles?

  • Our founding board realized political giving wasn’t enough – between them, they had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect good men and women to office. Some had even spent years of their own life in public service. But they didn’t have much to show for it. A small tactical win here. Maybe a bad piece of legislation stopped over there. Which might be good enough if you just want to manage the decline of a failing status quo.
  • But they realized that if they were going to take the challenges to opportunity in our state head on, there was a big puzzle piece missing.
  • The fact is, you can’t just elect good people and send them into the fight armed with good intentions. Any complex system that has grown up over time is resistant to change.
  • Without a powerful “idea engine” with the ability to credibly crunch data, develop market-based policy solutions and convene the right people – elected and civic leaders – to get them done, real sustainable change was not possible.

And that’s why they generously committed personal resources – and $300K of Senator DeMint’s remaining campaign funds – to launch Palmetto Promise in 2013.


How do we achieve our founding vision of a South Carolina that realizes its full promise? Why will we succeed?

  1. Policy Research: Palmetto Promise finds data-driven, opportunity solutions to South Carolina’s challenges.
  2. Communications & Education: Palmetto Promise educates about legislators, business leaders and citizens about these ideas to win hearts and minds through our reports, financial models, weekly emails and blog posts.
  3. Advocacy: Palmetto Promise empowers citizens to impact change.
  4. Leadership: Palmetto Promise convenes & equips the leaders of today & tomorrow.


Palmetto Promise has developed a solid reputation as a reputable policy partner in South Carolina. We are working hard to scale what our founders envisioned this group could be: a permanent movement for freedom. A movement to make South Carolina a beacon of opportunity and what’s possible to America–and even the world.

We don’t seek government research grants, and we don’t perform contract research for corporations.  We rely on the generous, independent support of people like our visionary founding board members–people who share our passion for making our state the best it can be.  People like you.

Will you join our mission to create a free and flourishing South Carolina that fully lives up to its incredible promise?