NEWS BRIEFS:  New local government committee; S.C. has low excise taxes

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Lawmakers to look at state money going to local governments

A special ad hoc House committee has convened to study how the state funds local governments.

Earlier this month, Statehouse Report broke news that S.C. House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, wanted about why lawmakers want to look at how the state doles out money to counties and municipalities. The story also highlighted how a key local government advocates, which previously opposed losing any dollars, is willing to accept a new deal for the sake of certainty of funding.

“The Local Government Fund, like many legacy funding formulas that are written into state law, needs to be updated. It was created over thirty years ago out of a hodge-podge of special taxes, some of which no longer exist,” White said in a statement this week.  “The state should make funding decisions for state and local services based on equity, need, and merit, not math formulas.”

White appointed Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston to chair the committee. Other members include: state Reps. Dwight A. Loftis, R-Greenville; Mike Anthony, D-Union; Alan D. Clemmons, R-Horry; J. Derham Cole Jr., R-Spartanburg; Phillip D. Lowe, R-Florence; and Kirkman Finlay III, R-Richland.

—  Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent

State has third-lowest excise taxes in nation

A new report from the Tax Foundation shows South Carolina had the third lowest average for excise taxes – those special taxes and sales taxes on booze, smokes, gas, amusements, insurance,  utilities and more.  In other words, taxes on things a lot of people relate to fun.

The report, based on a comparison of 2014 fiscal year numbers, showed S.C. ranked 48th with excise taxes of $317 collected from every man, woman and child in the state.  Lowest was Idaho at $292 per capita.  Highest was Vermont’s $1,068 per person.

“Excise taxes are typically either propped up as a way to either reduce consumption of a good or raise revenue, but these goals contradict each other,” the report said.  “Reduced consumption naturally leads to a decline in revenue. Excise taxes are also often touted as a quick way to fill budget shortfalls. However, legislators should fund important policy priorities with broad-based, stable taxes, not narrow and nonneutral tax policy.”

— Andy Brack, editor and publisher

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