The Republicans vying to become South Carolina's next governor say there's room to cut taxes when they take office even though the state is in the midst of a massive budget crisis.
U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, state Rep. Nikki Haley and state Attorney General Henry McMaster do have some plans for the state's suffering finances that overlap. Some plan hard looks at taxes on manufacturing equipment or want to start from scratch when considering how to spend the budget dollars still trickling into state coffers. Collectively, they hew in different degrees to conservative tenets favoring less spending and lower taxes - the latter more easily touted than accomplished in coming years - but all do agree it will be a rough ride.
"We're going to have to struggle," McMaster said. "We're going to have to make some cuts. And it's going to be hard. There's no magic pot of money."
The four candidates in the June 8 primary want a chance to replace term-limited Gov. Mark Sanford. Three Democrats are running for their party's nomination. All seven candidates offered their thoughts on state spending and taxes during a series of interviews with The Associated Press.
The eventual winner will enter office with a looming budget problem: Federal bailout cash will disappear in July 2011 and no one expects the state's economy to grow fast enough to fill a revenue and spending gap that may approach $1 billion. This compounds two years of cuts to state programs thanks to a general fund that shrank from $7 billion to $5 billion.