SC House Conundrum

By Paul Gable

With less than a day to go for candidate filing for this year’s election races, the Horry County legislative delegation, especially house members, are in for quite a change.

Thad Viers resigned his seat recently due to his ongoing legal problems and George Hearn has decided not to seek re-election. Incumbents Nelson Hardwick and Liston Barfield will face challenges to re-election. A new House seat will be filled to essentially represent Carolina Forest in the General Assembly.

We are also told that there could be one more surprise, a kind of musical chairs, before filing closes at noon Friday.

Why is this important? It may very well show that delegation members, used to running unchallenged for re-election, are not fulfilling the expectations of local voters.

Events in the House in recent weeks definitely leave plenty of room for head scratching over what is happening in Columbia.

Earlier this month, a subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee approved two bills that would significantly reduce revenue for local governments. One bill reduces the property tax rate on commercial and rental property from the current six percent to five percent.

The other bill reduces the rate of property tax on manufacturing property from 10.5 percent to six percent. If both bills pass the House and Senate, it is estimated local governments will see a statewide reduction in revenue of over $1 billion by the time both bills are completely phased in at the end of this decade.

While paying much attention to reducing taxes and revenue at the local government level, something that does not affect the state budget and should be out of the purview of state legislators, the same is not true at the state level.

According to a recently completed analysis of the House version of the Fiscal Year 2013 state budget, significant increases in state spending are coming. The analysis, first reported by The Nerve, projects an increase in total spending at the state level by $1 billion.

This includes a $590 million increase in state general fund spending to $6.63 billion as well as authorized increases in federal fund spending to $8.66 billion and “other” fund spending to $8.03 billion. Other funds include such things as college tuition, lottery proceeds, portion of state sales tax earmarked for education and various fees charged by state agencies.

It seems that House members have no problem cutting taxes as long as they don’t have to deal with the ramifications of the reduced revenue. When it comes to spending that they are directly responsible for, the tune is changed to – Up, Up and Away.

There is some question whether the bills to reduce local government taxes can pass this year, but the state budget seems assured to be on the rise.

When the election season begins in earnest next week, we hope the candidates for vacant seats, the incumbents and challengers will be quizzed on their fiscal responsibility. Will they only try to reduce taxes and revenue at the local level while they continue to spend freely and more at the state level?


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