Everybody Wants a Piece of South Carolina’s $1.8 Billion Surplus. Is It Real?

South Carolina recently discovered that $1.8 billion of state money has been sitting in a bank account for more than five years, and no one seems to know its origin or what it was intended for. Now lawmakers are looking for answers, but the more they dig, the murkier it seems to get.

Agencies and legislators are pointing fingers. And after state hearings and investigations, it is not completely clear if the money is really there at all.

At a combative State Senate hearing on Tuesday, the state treasurer, Curtis M. Loftis Jr., vigorously defended himself and his office.

“You cannot conceive of the work we’ve done; it got dumped on us because of the failure of another office,” he said, referring to the comptroller general’s office. “We are reconstructing the books as best we can over the last seven years, and nobody will give us information.”

State Senator Lawrence K. Grooms, the chairman of the subcommittee holding the hearing, wasn’t buying it. “Mr. Loftis has abrogated his responsibility as a state treasurer,” he said. “He has breached the public trust.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Grooms, who like Mr. Loftis is a Republican, said: “It just confirmed that the treasurer believes his own P.R., which flies in the face of evidence. Every treasurer for 80 years or more has been able to reconcile cash, including Treasurer Loftis until 2016.”

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