Budgets - Cuts, Spending and You

S.C. General Assembly and New Taxes

By Paul Gable

The S.C. General Assembly will be hearing proposals for new taxes in January and they won’t be coming from Democrats.

It looks like Grover Norquist and his pledge will be forgotten when the S.C. General Assembly convenes in January looking for more money for the state’s crumbling roads and inadequate schools.

Need more funding for road maintenance and repair? Raise the gas tax.

Need more money for schools? Pass a new property tax.

This is beginning to sound like ‘Tax and Spend South Carolina.’

The gas tax increase will be sold as a user fee. The logic will be ‘If you don’t drive and use the roads, you won’t pay it because you won’t be buying gas.’ Republicans in this state have never had a problem raising fees. Of course, that’s nothing more than a semantic difference.

But the new property tax for school funding is problematic. It will not apply to owner occupied (4%) homes, only to rental (6%) properties and to business (10%) properties.

These are exactly the same properties that ACT 388, passed by the S.C. General Assembly in 2006, shifted school funding onto when it eliminated owner occupied property from paying for school operating funds.

But, the S.C. General Assembly is under the gun from the S.C. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that school funding was not sufficient to provide students in poor, rural school districts with a ‘minimally adequate education.’

The sentiment in Columbia evidently is as long as owner occupied homes are exempt, taxes can be raised on other property without serious political consequences. And it’s two years until the S.C. General Assembly has to stand for election again anyway, so even that most egregious (to conservatives) of all taxes, the property tax, can be safely raised now.



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