Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006
Slow down, listen
to experts on property tax reform
SC Statehouse Report
12, 2006 - - For Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity
was continuing to do the same thing over and over while always
expecting different results.
With state lawmakers rushing toward passing property tax
reform, maybe South Carolina deserves a new definition: significantly
reshaping the state's tax structure while ignoring a whole
bunch of smart people who say it's a bad idea.
As state senators take up property tax measures following
a bill that zipped through the House, they should consider
more than the rowdy bunch of property tax reform zealots who
want short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term pain.
Senators need to look at the overall message the state sends
if it essentially replaces most residential property taxes
with a 2 cent hike in sales tax. And they need to listen a
little more closely to the business community.
First, the message: If the state approves property tax reform
as proposed, it's going to stymie the state's job recruitment
efforts. Sure, South Carolina would have one of the lowest
property taxes in the nation. But at the same time, it would
have one of the highest sales taxes in the nation at 7 cents
per dollar spent.
For a state where job growth is lowest in the country, adding
another disincentive for businesses to move here just isn't
smart. What are recruiters going to tell potential employers
- - "Just move to South Carolina where we have the some
of the highest sales taxes in the nation?"
For businesses, the extra 2 cents will be crippling and raise
the share of property taxes they pay from 42 percent of the
whole to 47 percent, according to the SC Chamber of Commerce.
The organization also says changing the tax structure would
increase the tax burden on businesses by $490 million. Just
who do the zealots think would pay that increase - - customers!
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Next, the listening: Editorial writers and businessmen have
been pounding the opinion pages about how a huge shift in
the way South Carolina funds government might not be the smartest
long-term solution for the state. A sampling:
The impact: "The tax reform legislation the House
will debate this week helps rich school districts maintain
their edge, forces the poor and middle class to pay for tax
cuts for the wealthy, shifts the tax burden onto businesses,
sets the state up for revenue shortfalls in years to come
and intrudes on the ability of every community in this state
to decide what level of local services it will have,"
editorial in The State newspaper.
Business burden: "This is a recipe for disaster
that places an unfair burden on the business community. If
businesses can't prosper, South Carolina surely cannot,"
Columbia businessmen Lee Bussell and Jim Reynolds in The
Myrtle Beach Sun News.
Study more: "No aspect of state government needs
a more thoughtful approach or more expertise than the state's
fiscal underpinning, down to the local level of government.
Better to give the proposed [property tax] study commission
the priority of analyzing the property tax relief measures
now on the table than take a chance that its biggest job next
year will be looking for solutions to this year's bad tax
mistakes," editorial in The Georgetown Times.
Slow down: "As they head into this debate, spurred
on by angry homeowners, SC legislators should resolve to follow
the ancient physician's maxim: First, do no harm," editorial
in The Myrtle Beach Sun News.
Let's hope the state Senate will exercise its traditional
leadership role to cool the passionate stirrings of the SC
There's more than one way to reduce property taxes - - raising
the our nationally-lowest cigarette tax or boosting our fourth-lowest
gas tax or removing the billion dollars of sales tax exemptions
or broadening the revenue base by taxing services.
But the real debate that needs to go on isn't how to satisfy
irked homeowners. The real debate should be to do what's right
for most South Carolinians after a long look at the whole
2/12: What can
happen to cartoonists
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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for business subscribers. More: SC
Students oppose tuition caps
To the Editor:
The South Carolina State Student Association, a student-funded,
student-directed organization representing over 65,000 public
university students across South Carolina, opposes Gov. Sanford's
tuition cap proposal. SCSSA also expresses dismay that on
Thursday, the higher education subcommittee of the Ways and
Means Committee adopted a tuition cap.
Everyone supports affordable tuition, but there is a difference
between good rhetoric and good policy. Sanford's tuition cap
proposal is bad policy for the students and families of South
Sanford continued his push for the proposal on Wednesday
with a press conference, claiming that recent tuition increases
were a result of "of the duplication and inefficiency
within the higher educational system." SCSSA maintains
that the more fundamental problem is the lack of sufficient
state funding for higher education.
Meghan Hughes, SCSSA vice chair and a junior at USC noted
that "from 2000 to 2005, state funding for Higher Education
decreased by over 20%," adding that "until state
funding is restored to appropriate levels, forcing universities
to cap tuition will decrease the quality of our institutions."
SCSSA will continue communicating their concerns with state
lawmakers and are pleased that students will have a seat at
the table at the governor's task force.
-- Kely Sheldon, President, SC State Student Association
Junior, Clemson University
Take a look at ethanol too
To the editor:
Always enjoy your articles. I read this morning your discussion
on a hydrogen economy. It was very informative; but we need
to insure the yellow rock isn't fool's gold. Those tomatoes
and bushes may be worth more than the rocks. I believe S.C.'s,
and the nation's, best bet is through ethanol production.
Is anyone in SC even looking at this? The first article below
is worth reading.
Look at America's energy needs
To the editor:
An op-ed piece written by Peter Huber (Manhattan Institute)
appeared in the Wall Street Journal of February 3rd. It is
probably the easiest to understand discourse I have ever read
on America's energy needs and sources. I was so impressed
that I wrote an review of some of the statistics for some
friends and colleagues I communicate with. What is useful
in his analogies is that he equates all energy sources and
needs in terms of oil (BBO=Billions of Barrels of Oil) and
equivalents of energy sources and needs in oil (BBOE=Billions
of Barrels of Oil).
What I also want to pass on to you is what he said about Hydrogen.
"The President also reaffirmed his support for the ambitious
hydrogen technology program he announced in 2003. Over the
longer term, hydrogen might indeed emerge as a third bridge
between the electric and transportation sectors, serving as
a battery-like storage medium to power cars. But the 0.1 BBOE
a year of hydrogen that we currently produce (for industrial
uses) costs four to eight times more than North Sea oil, and
is 10 times more expensive to store. (emphasis added) And,
the hydrogen comes either from natural gas, or from water
split apart with electricity. Which leads us back again, directly
or indirectly, to coal and uranium."
I guess an optimist could draw from this an opportunity, sometime
in the distant future, that hydrogen might play a role, albeit
a small one, in energy needs for cars. Going back to Huber's
article, it seem prudent to first solve the problem of converting
our use of natural gas to produce electricity and heating
our offices and homes to producing that electricity from clean
coal and/or nuclear.
-- Tom Hatfield, Hilton Head Island, SC
Hydrogen column misleading
To the editor:
I was disappointed to read your column [Commentary,
2/5] on hydrogen in today's newspaper, The Island
Packet. It gave the reading public the wrong idea on hydrogen.
The column gives the opinion that you take hydrogen and use
it as an energy source. This just is not true.
Hydrogen is a method of storing energy in a usable form,
gas. Electrical energy is used to disassociate water into
Hydrogen and O2. It takes 2 Faraday's of electrical current
to produce one mole of hydrogen. Then the hydrogen can be
burned in any number of ways to get back the stored energy.
You can direct the hydrogen into a fuel cell to convert the
energy stored in hydrogen into electrical energy to power
the automobile. Or, you can direct the hydrogen into a conventional
internal combustion engine (automobile) the same way we use
However, first you must have a source of electrical energy
to produce the hydrogen. We do not have the electrical generating
power plants in the United States to produce the electrical
energy for hydrogen generation. The Department Of Energy (DOE)
has stopped all proposals so as to save oil and coal power
generating. For instance: The glass industry stopped converting
from gas to electric in 1980, The EV1 electric automobile
production was stopped, the steel industry has been limited,
the freight trains criss-crossing the United States still
burn 17% of our oil, the DOE has stopped promoting Geo Thermal
home heating systems. All of these savings in energy were
stopped because we do not have the electrical generating capacity.
The new Energy Bill passed by Congress has provisions for
the US Government to guarantee the bonds for (5) new nuclear
power plants. Plans have been announced to build one of these
nuclear plants at the Savannah River Project. The output from
this new nuclear power plant should be directed to the production
of hydrogen. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO PRODUCE HYDROGEN.
Therefore, I urge you to write a column on producing hydrogen
using nuclear power right here is South Carolina.
-- Alexander D. Kline, P.E., Bluffton, SC
- 1/30: Boost
cigarette tax or else, Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Haff, Hilton
Head Island, SC
- 1/30: Toll
is a use tax, Buck Pridgen, North Augusta, SC
- 1/29: Toll
article stinks, Dow Hammond, Florence, SC
rid of property taxes,
Linda C. Guerry, Charleston, SC
board funding is devious, Bob
Logan, Little River, SC
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
Richardson. Sen. Scott Richardson, R-Beaufort, was
holding court on Thursday to try, unsuccessfully, to talk
other senators into putting surplus monies into three categories:
rainy day debts, school buses and secondary roads. He was
told that his request should instead go through committees,
first. That means, he said, that the committee or committees
would make the decision mostly out of sight of the public.
Instead, he argued, there is nothing more public than the
floor of the Senate for decision-making. No FOIA needed. Right
Smith. Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, appeared to lead
the opponents of the House's greased slide to approval of
property tax reform legislation. Smith several times presented
amendments, all of which failed in the Republic onslaught,
but at least twice, Smith's constitutional arguments sent
the dais luminaries to out-of-earshot conferences. While both
instances resulted in rulings against Smith, he had the GOP
leadership worried despite the overwhelming Republican majority.
Caught. Many's the time that a legislator feels that
he or she is caught in the middle, facing a no-win vote in
which the legislator can be criticized either way. Last week's
complaint came from Rep. Michael Anthony, D-Union, who said
he more than likely will vote for an open enrollment bill,
but that home rule concerns worried him: ``I'm just so tired
of us legislating everything from Columbia.''
Pay gaps. The Human Affairs Commission's recent report
on gaps between blacks and whites and between men and women
in state government is once again abysmal. The Alliance for
Women argues that not only is the "pay gap between women
and men significant ($8,055 in 2005 down from $8,083 in 2004),
the number of women in policy level leadership decreased (17
women agency heads in 2005 down from 19 women in 2002. This
trend in pay is actually a national trend.'' One of these
days, the bureaucrats, policy makers and politicians will
realize there are more women than men living in South Carolina
and, thus, more women to outvote men.
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