Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005
unite America's spirit
SC Statehouse Report
28, 2005 - - As thousands of Americans put their lives on
the line in a brutal war in Iraq, millions of Americans at
home appear casual and indifferent. The war is as much of
a part of their lives as snow is to someone who lives in the
This American apathy is a symptom of a larger problem, a
loss of the spirit of what it means to be American. Instead
of the America of World War II that had a sense of shared
sacrifice, today we have an America that is more obsessed
with the shenanigans of pop stars. Instead of an America where
hard work, inventiveness and experimentation pulled the country
out of the Great Depression, we've now got an America that
lets television drain away its creativity.
Unless something changes, we risk losing the America defined
by a passionate commitment to freedom. Unless we're careful,
we'll continue to slide toward an embarrassing sham America
of hollow patriotic displays and poll-driven sound bites of
self-interest. Instead of "We the People of the United
States," we'll turn into millions of "Me the Person
in the United States."
We can do better. We need a pick-me-up about what it is to
be American. It's not the quaint America of fireworks and
apple pie on July 4th. Instead, it's an America with a sense
of shared commitment to freedom of all types fueled by an
appreciation and respect for differences. It's an America
where disparate parts make a whole country even stronger.
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To rekindle the American spirit, the country needs a national
commitment from all her people to come together in new ways.
We suggest a new national volunteerism program that won't
increase the deficit, pull people apart or magnify partisan
It's time for Americans of all races, creeds and parties
to take part in a Great Month of Success - - a month in which
citizens give at least eight hours of volunteer time to make
Imagine what could be done if 220 million American adults
volunteered eight hours in one month to make things better.
They could generate 1.8 billion - - yes, billion - - volunteer
hours for public service. Even if only 10 percent of Americans
participated in a Great Month of Success, American volunteers
could do amazing things, such as:
- Build 50,000 homes, based on 2,000 man-hours per
home according to Habitat for Humanity.
- Clean up 33,000 miles of beaches, rivers and roadways,
based on the 30-man-hours per mile it takes to clean one
mile of S.C. beach.
" Spend time reading individually to the nation's 24.5
million students below fifth grade.
- Talk about dreams with each of the nation's 33.7
million students from fifth to 12th grade. Youths in programs
like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America reportedly are
far less likely to skip school or start using drugs than
those who aren't mentored.
- Give blood. The nation's sick and injured need
about 38,000 units of blood daily, according to the American
And there would still be almost 16 million volunteer man-hours
left! Envision the good that could be done.
President Bush pledged to be a uniter, not a divider. To
date, George W. Bush has been the ivory-billed woodpecker
of American leaders - - you don't see him uniting, but you
know he's there. So after a long summer vacation that should
have helped to reinvigorate his spirit and second term, he
should consider this new kind of unifying leadership to bring
Imagine how Americans, challenged to do community service
by our president, could join together with a sense of common
purpose. Just think of how it would uplift the country's spirit.
All for eight hours of work from streams of Americans over
a single month.
Mr. President, it's time to unite America. The country needs
8/26: At the
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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Realistic assessment of problem
To the editor:
This letter is
in response to your column printed in the Beaufort Gazette
on August 22, 2005.
Having some experience on this subject, I would like to state
that of all the articles I have read about the real property
assessment system in the State of South Carolina, your realistic
analysis of this problem is a voice in the wilderness. You
obviously have more than a passing knowledge about this matter
and it appears you have researched the article very well.
The Constitution of the State of South Carolina states that
all property shall be assessed at "full" value.
Courts have interpreted the word "full" as meaning
"fair market value". In turn, that term can be defined
as "the most probable selling price of a property (any
property) under current market conditions". The key to
any good real property assessment and taxation system is that
it be fair to all taxpayers. In my opinion, the SC system
fails to meet constitutional requirements and is not fair.
The process of determining an assessed value is primarily
the comparable sale market comparison approach. In this approach,
the assessor researches recent comparable sales similar to
the property being assessed (appraised) and, after making
adjustments for differences, arrives at what he/she considers
to be a fair assessment of the market value of the property
being assessed. Because assessors have to use comparable sales
that have occurred in the past as appropriate data, any assessment
system, regardless of how sophisticated it might be, can never
achieve full values as of the date of the publishing of the
However, in South Carolina, the fact that assessment roles
are created every five years serves only to compound the problem.
This is my basis for stating the current practices create
assessments that are so far away from "full" values
during that five year time period that the five year practice
constitutes a violation of the State Constitution. This is
especially true in a rapidly rising markets that are currently
appropriate to many sections of South Carolina.
Senator Glenn F. McConnell of Charleston has called the property
tax "evil" and is currently holding hearings across
the state. Senator David L. Thomas of Greenville has "declared
war" on the property tax system. Both these gentlemen
are attorneys and should know better. By holding these hearings
and commiserating with appearing taxpayers, they are doing
nothing more than pandering to the objecting taxpayers and
setting the stage for their stated intent to do away with
the property tax system. If successful, that would be an economic
and fiscal disaster for South Carolina.
I would suggest the following steps, if followed, would actually
provide a much more fair system than the existing one:
1 - Publish new
assessment rolls annually rather than every five years,
2 - Separate the town, local and county taxes from the school
taxes. State, County and local taxes could be
due in January, school taxes due in August or September,
both using the same assessment roll,
3 - Due away with the $100,000 individual property exemption
for school taxes. It is not fair to all taxpayers,
4 - No caps or maximum limits on assessed values. If a property
is worth $2,000,000, assess it as such.
other states have successfully done to re-vitalize their assessment
practices. To conform a property tax system to taxpayers
desires id to invite disaster!
-- Richard J. Mullin, Asheville, N.C.
8/23: Alternative needed to property taxes
To the editor:
I do not agree with your assessment
pertaining to property tax. I feel that property tax should
be done away with. There should be some other alternatively
to supply the needs for our schools, city government and county.
I can remember when my family lost a lot of land because of
the Depression and they could not pay their taxes. It is not
fair for the government to hold my residential property for
their benefit to get money. We pay a sufficient amount in
state taxes and federal taxes to cover all the need of each
The biggest problem is that government waste our tax dollars
on foolishness and not for the benefit of the taxpayer. I
cannot understand how you can make a statement that property
tax is fair. I have worked long and hard to buy my home and
property. I have paid my share of taxes for over 30 years
and I do not feel the government should have control over
my property taxes. It seems to me that people who claim property
tax is fair, do not pay any. It will not affect the economy
to receive revenue on a sales tax basis, but it would alleviate
property tax off of our homes and property. People will not
stop purchasing what they need to sustain their livelihood.
Governor Sanford needs to look after the taxpayer and not
big business. Most of the taxes paid in South Carolina are
by the working man and not the business. I suggest to the
legislators to put a stop to property tax and stop wasting
The government should listen to the taxpayer and not to big
-- Dr. Erwin E. Lambert, Georgetown, S.C.
8/22: Commentary flawed
To the editor:
The flaw in your commentary is that
for most people, real estate is not so much an investment
but a necessity. Most people have just one real estate holding:
their home. The alternative is to rent, but renters pay more
when property taxes go up as well. Most people buy a home
primarily to have a roof over their head, and choose to buy
rather than rent in hopes that their housing expenditure can
generate a little wealth. None-the-less, the investment consideration
is secondary to their housing need. Their housing demands
services from government and for that they have to pay taxes.
I think the legitimate debate here is why local government
spending is rising faster than the rate of the citizenrys
capacity to pay.
-- Michael E. Dey, Vice President of Government Affairs,
South Carolina Association of REALTORS®, Columbia, S.C.
8/22: Missed the point on property tax
To the editor:
Your article about
property tax was in this morning's Beaufort Gazette. Although
I agree with you that property taxes are generally an indicator
of increasing wealth amongst those taxed, I think you have
missed the point as to the objections many of us have to the
system in South Carolina.
My objection is not to the amount of property tax, per se,
or to the fact that it increases significantly when reassessments
only occur every five years. Instead, I object to the flaws
in the assessment procedure itself and, additionally, to the
way my the money is squandered by our local government entities,
especially the Beaufort County school system. Here in Beaufort
County, arguably the fastest growing county in the state,
local government never saw a tax increase it didn't embrace.
Planning is way behind the growth curve and in general the
functionality of most local government here is straight out
With very few exceptions, government officials don't hear
our requests and demands that they change their modus operandi.
Instead, they spend more and more money and keep going to
the well (property owners) each time.
Just some thoughts for you to consider.
-- Rick Davenport,
Dataw Island, S.C.
taxes too high
To the editor:
Interesting opinion piece. I grew up on Hilton Head Island,
and now live and work here as a real estate broker. I know
some people (school teachers & nurses) that are having
to cash in on that so called wealth and move off island. Some
of these homes were purchased long ago or even inherited.
They don't want to move. Unfortunately they have no choice,
their property taxes doubled or even tripled in one year and
they can no longer afford to live where they call home. Yes
the property tax rate is great for the GOVERNMENT (no doubt).
a more interesting question is whether it is good for the
PEOPLE, which is suppose to be purpose of our government.
-- Chris Walton, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
all homeowners are investors
To the editor:
After reading Mr. Brack's article on the irony of property
tax increases, I just had to weigh in on the other side of
this issue, which Mr. Brack fails to acknowledge or understand.
Not all home owners are investors in real-estate. Some are
just good old folks that purchased their retirement homes
some years ago, and are living on a fixed income. The fact
that they happen to have moved into what was once a lower
valued property area that has since taken off in reappraised
value, puts them is a very difficult position. I use in reference,
the Forest Beach area of Hilton Head. Many residents moved
into this area when Forest Beach was way in the back seat
compared to the Plantations when it came to property values.
They bought a little house that was in their budget and may
have paid $1,000 per year or way less in property taxes. Now,
today with property reassessment they are required to pay
four or five times that much. When on a fixed income, where
does that extra four or five thousand dollars come from?
The only options some have are to sell their property for
some Developer to buy, tear down and build another near hotel
size rental property. Meanwhile, the older resident may have
made a substantial amount in appreciation, but where do they
go from there. The house they had planned on living out their
lives is gone. And everything else in the area has gone up
too. So, many are forced to leave the area. I saw this exact
thing happen in California, where elderly people were constantly
forced from their life long houses because of continued property
tax increases. Fortunately, California legislators came to
their senses and put a cap on property taxes until those owners
decided to sell on their own. Then, the houses were reappraised,
and the new buyer knew in advance what tax costs he would
be facing. This area of reappraising and raising taxes needs
some real common sense applied when thinking that everyone
who has a tax increase if so fortunate.
-- Gary Smith, Hilton Head Island, SC
taxes aren't fair
To the editor:
How can any one state that property taxes are fair in South
Carolina . When the tax acessor does not need to be a high
school graduate . He can say your 30 year home is worth the
same as 5 new homes the same size around you. Iftwo homes
were the same one new and one 30 years old and in need of
repair , which one would you buy if the same price and the
acessor said the are valued the same ? They will not except
the appraisal of a liciened appraier.So you conveince me and
our 40,000 members that it is fair. All the older retired
people are loosing their homes . 22,000 peices of property
were sold at tax sales last year and most were retired for
years. That doesn't count the 1,000's that have sold their
homes so they would not lose it.
-- David Whetsell, STOPTAX, Lexington S.C.
aren't meant to be fair
To the editor:
[Former House Speaker] Bob Sheheen was fond of saying that
taxes were not meant to be fair; they were meant to raise
money. He's right. Taking someone else's money to do something
for other people is not fair; but it's the price of security
and a civilized society. It should be a given to all but the
hermits among us that taxes must be paid to provide services
and amenities that citizens demand. So, if we want to talk
about fair taxes, we should be concerned when one group or
person pays a tax from which others are exempt. It is much
fairer in my mind for everyone to pay $0.03 in sales tax than
for some to pay $0.05 so that others pay nothing. Tax Commission
figures in the late '80s and early to mid-'90s indicated that
we could drop all exemptions, reduce the sales tax to $0.025,
and raise the same amount of money. I personally believe that
food, medical supplies, and perhaps a few other essentials
that everyone has to have, should be exempt--but no more than
I hate to say this ... but you have said before that services
must be taxed in order to realize the changes in the nature
of business. If services were taxed, we probably could reduce
the percentage of the tax a little more--or provide more for
education and infrastructure.
Right in line with that is the resistance to taxing catalogue
and internet purchases. The internet industry needs to be
fostered and protected to reach it's potential? These commercial,
virtual shopping centers have an advantage over shopowners
which should not be. Sales taxes on catalogue and electronic
purchases would further allow some more reduction or some
more revenue enhancement.
Put me in line with those who have said for years that our
entire tax structure needs to be re-evaluated. Over the last
twenty years or so the burden of running our State and local
governments has been shifted from the affluent to the middle
class and from business to the individual...
Sorry to be so long. The guys talking about this tax reform--once
again on a piecemeal basis--have never had to run a city or
a county, I'll bet. I hope you and others will continue to
talk about this. The problem is the property taxes due to
SCHOOLS; and local governments cannot solve our SCHOOL problems.
-- Former S.C. state legislator, name withheld upon request.
Medicaid approach is hocus-pocus, Laura Morris, Mount
taxes are a scourge, Raymond Owens, North Charleton,
among morality police,
Name withheld, Summerville, S.C.
for math and common sense, Paula Richardson, Britton's
credit rating is red flag, Bob Logan, Little
should focus on real problems, Donna Crile, Myrtle
to do more about poverty, Earl Capps, Ladson,
school would help on St. Helena Island, Tom
Hatfield, Hilton Head Island, SC
program addresses Pee Dee poverty, Tammy Pawloski,
Professor of Education, Francis Marion University, Florence,
approach on prosperity, Laura Morris, Mount
can we let poverty happen, Nancy Kolman, Pawley's Island,
This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report
with other media reports:
In Statehouse Report:
8/14/05: 8/14/05: Medicaid
plan looks risky, costly:
"Some may admire the
Sanford administration for trying to do something about
Medicaid, but at this point, the proposal seems like
it has too much of a chance of hurting the poor, elderly
and children. They shouldn't be experimental subjects
to test a Republican political theory...Go back to the
drawing board. "
In the Charleston City Paper
wants the poor to develop more character by spending
money they don't have: "What The Eye doesnt
get is that most of these fiscal conservative types
who want to rid the nation of the menace of social programs
characterize themselves as Christians. The
Eye finds that they choose to ignore Christs essential
directives to feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted,
clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned when they
rationalize their legislative aims by declaiming choice
and personal responsibility. And
as for Mark Sanford, mused The Eye, somebody needs to
remind him that poverty is not a character flaw.
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Tenenbaum. We wish she wouldn't leave the state superintendent's
office and we're disappointed she's not running, but she's
leaving with grace. We wish her well.
BRAC. Shaw Air Force Base, McEntire and Fort Jackson
fared well under the Base Realignment and Closure Commission,
although Charleston lost some jobs. Bottom line: The state
didn't get hit hard at all, compared to a few years back.
GOP. The Grand Old Party is already spreading rumors
that Tenenbaum is going to run for governor against Sanford,
even though she has said she's not. How Nixonian.
Graham. Guess who got fired from his DC radio job
for saying Islam was a terrorist organization -- former SC
radio commentator and current columnist Michael Graham. Good,
although we doubt he'll lose any arrogance.
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