By Paul Gable
Pre-filed bills for an upcoming session of the SC General Assembly always provide interesting reading, especially in an election year.
Three definitely caught our eye in recent weeks.
Sen. Katrina Shealy is evidently trying to give her friend Gov. Nikki Haley a campaign issue by filing a bill that proposes to eliminate the state’s income tax over a five-year period.
A Haley spokesman said the governor would support the bill. This doesn’t have anything to do with a re-election campaign in 2014 does it governor?
The proposal would reportedly cut approximately $3.4 billion in state revenue (approximately one-half of the state’s total budget) by the time the tax is completely eliminated.
Shealy proposes the SC General Assembly balance the budget by cuts, cuts and more cuts to state services. No real thought has been given to which services and by how much, but cutting taxes and the size of government sounds good in an election year.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sen. Ray Cleary proposed increasing the state gas tax by two cents per gallon each year until the total tax reaches 36 cents per gallon. (It is currently 16.5 cents per gallon.)
Cleary was just re-elected in 2012, so he doesn’t face the voters for another three years – a good time to propose a tax increase.
Actually, this is probably one of the most needed increases, or at least a portion of it, as the state maintained road system continues to deteriorate as maintenance is pushed back or eliminated due to lack of funds.
However, Haley has promised to veto any increase in the gas tax. She can fly around the state for her campaign stops (airports are maintained at the county and federal levels) and tax increases in an election year are verboten.
The third pre-filed bill worth watching is the proposal by Sen. Lee Bright to change the state primary election system to closed primaries.
Bright is running against Sen. Lindsey Graham for Graham’s U.S. Senate seat and he obviously believes allowing only registered Republicans to vote in the Republican Primary will help his chances to oust Graham.
Nothing like a bit of self-serving in the legislative process.
One other issue to watch this year is gambling. With North Carolina having already stolen the march on South Carolina with Indian casinos, we are hearing the Catawbas, a South Carolina tribe, have not given up on locating new casinos in South Carolina although plans are also being looked at for a casino just over the North Carolina border.
If Haley is re-elected, will she be as stalwart in her opposition to gambling casinos in South Carolina? It would only take her agreement to allow one to happen.