Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005
may be moving out of the mainstream
SC Statehouse Report
20, 2005 - - Next year could prove to be the year that South
Carolina completely leaves the mainstream, if it has even
been there at all in recent times.
If lawmakers go through with two major policy shifts in 2006,
the Palmetto State may become the unruly teenager of states.
First is the hullabaloo surrounding property taxes. The squeaky
wheels around South Carolina have gotten worked up into such
a froth in recent years that state lawmakers seem to be trying
to outdo each other to give them what they want - - lower
Never mind that altering the state's tax structure radically
could wreak long-term havoc, particularly on lower- and middle-class
taxpayers. Never mind that it would leave the state in the
uncompetitive business position of having one of the nation's
highest sales tax rates, even though property taxes would
be among the lowest.
Lawmakers still have a way to go to resolve differences on
how to cut property taxes, but few seem to be focusing on
the inequities that will be created if they shift how governments
get money to provide services. Not only would boosting the
reliance on sales taxes heighten instability in the system,
but it would shift more of the burden to lower-income taxpayers.
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According to a fresh analysis by The Post and Courier
of Charleston, the plans being considered by the House
and Senate would "give the lion's share of the benefits
to those with pricey real estate, while owners of the least-expensive
homes could wind up paying more tax instead of less."
The analysis showed for every dollar in relief received by
the owner of a $100,000 home, the House plan would provide
$21 in relief for the owner of a million-dollar home. Under
the same scenario with the Senate plan, the million-dollar
home owner would get almost $46 in savings.
If state lawmakers don't slow down a little and look system-wide
on how tax shifting will cause big problems, future lawmakers
will inherit a tax structure filled with problems galore.
In the second policy shift, Gov. Mark Sanford continues to
push for Medicaid changes that would privatize the state's
current program into "personal health accounts"
that don't exist yet in the marketplace.
Earlier in the year, Sanford and his cronies asked the federal
government to overhaul the Medicaid program to save money.
But they did it just a few days after the legislative session
without really informing lawmakers, which raised their ire.
In the months that followed, Sanford tinkered with the plan
and left children out of the planned changes - - a big improvement.
But critics worry the plan remains risky and theoretical,
and may cause costs to rise because of increased private bureaucracies
needed to manage the privatized accounts. More importantly,
there's a great fear the 850,000 Medicaid recipients in the
state, most of them among the state's poorest, will get less
health care in the future, not just a system that controls
Both of these proposals seem to fly counter to the old axiom,
"You can't get something for nothing." With property
taxes, lawmakers seem to want to give cuts to squeaky wheels
without fully understanding the mayhem they could cause systemically.
With Medicaid, the governor and his team seem to want to save
money without understanding the state's most vulnerable probably
will suffer more.
Perhaps state lawmakers should consider another old political
axiom - - "When in doubt, do nothing." That course
of action would do more to protect lower-income South Carolinians
than radical changes proposed to "fix" property
taxes and Medicaid.
11/20: The need
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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Ausband to become new editor
S.C. Statehouse Report is pleased to announce that
veteran South Carolina journalist Jerry C. Ausband
of Garden City Beach will take the helm as new editor in December.
"Jerry is a well-connected, highly-respected journalist
who will bring fresh insights and a lot of experience to Statehouse
Report," said Andy Brack, who will remain as publisher
of the weekly legislative forecast. "We're happy to have
his expertise to broaden our weekly offerings as the best weekly
policy and political journal in the state."
Ausband, a native of Conway and a graduate of Clemson University,
has long observed and written about the General Assembly of
South Carolina. A veteran of 42 years in journalism, most
in the Carolinas, Ausband retired from The Sun News
of Myrtle Beach in June 2001 as editorial page editor after
being editor of two daily newspapers in the Carolinas.
He notes he is not a member of any political party, and he
has often explained in writing that he does not believe any
party has locks on all the best candidates. You can reach
Ausband by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
11/15: Oil drilling article mongers
To the editor:
I couldn't help but notice the typical generalizations in
your article. (Commentary,
10/23) Where should I start?. "But it would wreck
SC's environment." Take a look at California..they have
refineries and over 100 terminals that receive Petroleum and
petroleum products by tankers, etc.. I have not noticed a
wrecked Californian environment.
You clearly have no clue how much oil is brought to the US
in tankers. Try to name a ship, except the Exxon Valdez,
which had a spill of over 10,000 gallons..you can't. To project
the idea that the Exxon Valdez would be repeated off our coast
is bad science and you know it. You conveniently comment about
the Gulf/LA/ area as cancer alley, yet nowhere do you mention
the 20 or so refineries in California. Your comments are completely
unjustified and typical of Democratic fear-mongering.
-- Don Allen, Charleston, SC
Who will take notice of stats?
To the editor:
Bravo, Mr. Brack... very interesting (Commentary,
11/13)... wonder who will take notice of it.
Meanwhile, I have often wondered why so many heavy trailers
that are towed behind pickup trucks and SUV's do not have
a "trailer license plate"... which means that Beaufort
County (and perhaps all SC counties) do not collect any tax
fees for the SC General Revenue Fund. These same trailers
are participating in wear and tear of our roads... are they
not? So why do other US States charge a fee and we do not?
Another factor would be the safety of these trailers. Please
You might find other interesting items in that report.
-- Bill Homewood, Hilton Head Island, SC
To the editor:
Thank you for your terribly disturbing article (Commentary,
11/13). I would like to suggest that 1) until South
Carolinians are willing to invest in public services, such
as education, the statistics cited will not change; and 2)
the religious leaders of community have not spoken loudly
enough that the human suffering the quoted statistics represent
give rise to ethical and moral issues as well as political.
-- Charles Sanders, Hilton Head Island, SC
Good report on SC
To the editor:
Good report about our state. (Commentary,
11/13) Can you tell from the small elections we have
had during the past months in South Carolina how incumbents
are doing ? I am from Fayetteville, N.C., and several cities
within the Fayetteville area had elections. Results favor
new candidates. In , Hope Mills NC, a young school teacher
and two other incumbents ran for Mayor. The young teacher
and (part-time writer for the Fayetteville Observer)
beat the other two experienced politicians. A former executive
with Fayetteville Observer beat two-time black Mayor
for the office. The issue in that election was "mandatory
annexation" with the citizens that did not want to be
annexed going to the polls and taking out the incumbent whom
supported the forced annexation.
You do a good job. We really have too many aged persons in
office that "just keep hanging on". We have many
city administrators,fire chiefs and police chiefs that should
be "replaced," but they run from council member
to councilmen and manage to keep the right council members
happy to remain on the job. Thanks
-- Boyd McLean, Gaffney, SC
Look at where we're doing well
To the editor:
The trouble with "floundering" (Commentary,
11/13) is that sometimes you end up like the fish
-- i.e., only on one side. How about just a few "other
side" firsts, like:
- The USC Darla Moore School -- #1 in international business;
- MUSC, #1 in pediatrics; or
- The nominee for the Federal Reserve chairmanship, a product
of the SC high school system in Dillon; or
- The first-ever IT recipient of the Albert Einstein Award,
presented in Israel last month to a Charleston resident;
- Dr. Ann Kultz, recognized by her peer group as one of
the top nutritionist doctors in the country; or
- The Spoleto Festival, the most comprehensive arts festival
in the USA; or
- The Gibbes Museum of Art, holding the best collection
of American portrait miniatures in the USA; or
- The fact that your daughter has selected Charleston to
be her first home?
Get the idea? Looking at the sea of South Carolina life from
a well-rounded perspective like another kind of fish, one
might see that there is another side of the ocean that may
not be as course or cloudy as the sand or sea that one might
observe if that fish only has a flounder's point of view.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that the flounder would indeed
have more life-enhancement opportunities if it was in a better
"school" and did not have some of the social and
environmental issues that affect humans as well as fish. We
all (elected and non-elected citizens) need to work toward
improving the quality of life in SC And for the most part,
I think we are.
-- John Rivers, Charleston, SC
To the editor:
There are nine ways to calculate the graduation rate (Commentary,
11/13) and you used the lowest and the right wing's
number which is used to attack our public schools . The highest
rate is 73% which is still low but the lowest is bogus! You
should know better .
-- Samuel Tenenbaum, Lexington, SC
SC needs to move away from Civil War
To the editor:
Thanks for an informative email. (Commentary,
11/13) The number one thing South Carolina can do
in Washington to gain more respect and federal funding is
to apologize for seceding from the USA. The next thing is
to apologize for not lowering the flag for Rosa Parks as she
is an icon for all to respect.
There are some other things, but this will make it known
South Carolina in not a state for racists. The fact is having
traveled to 49 of the 50 states, I have an idea of what many
Americans think of SC and it isn't complimentary. SC has a
great future and wastes it on dealing with garbage from the
-- Gary Rice, Columbia, SC
Stats show state's daunting predicament
To the editor:
Great piece (Commentary,
11/13) and yes, we feel just the same! All this must
be very daunting for a young family hoping to have spend a
lifetime here. Lately, we have been examining where to go,
since nothing seems to be changing. I look forward to your
article each Sunday. Thanks for all you do to heightened the
-- Harriet Smartt, Isle of Palms, SC
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Time. The magazine scored by naming Gov. Mark Sanford
as one of the nation's worst governors -- something we've
known for awhile. And you know it must have gotten to Sanford
because he came out slugging in response -- something he generally
leaves to flacks. (P.S. It's laughable for Sanford to call
Time a "liberal" magazine.)
Public education. News that Sanford won't push for
his much-desired school voucher bill is good news for public
education. While he was criticized for election year politics,
it's good news that it likely won't be a front-burner issue
(although it is clear the issue is far from resolved.).
Open government. Reports by SC Press Association newspapers
clearly indicated that police departments still don't understand
that reports are public information and that a lot of local
governments don't understand that the public's business should
be in public.
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