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2002-2004, South Carolina Statehouse Report. Published weekly during the S.C. legislative session. South Carolina Statehouse Report is a media project of The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.

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A Noah's Ark approach to tax reform
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report

AUG. 4, 2002 - - The big hoopla this week in Columbia was the first meeting of a special new S.C. House committee that's looking at tax reform.

Well, it's an election year, so go figure.

Seriously, House Speaker David Wilkins empanelled the committee to develop a comprehensive, fair, stable and equitable approach for reforming the state's taxing structure.

The 15-member panel, stacked with twice as many Republicans as Democrats, will look at the big picture to explore ways to reduce or eliminate taxes. They'll look for alternative sources of revenue and ways to use the tax structure to improve education and economic development.

A cynic might translate the previous paragraph as: "They're looking to cut some taxes, raise other taxes and see if they can do anything to help businesses grow."

But Wilkins told members their work, which is due early next year, could have a dramatic effect.

"I'm asking you to come up with new ideas - - workable solutions - - to improve our state tax structure," he said Wednesday.

Interestingly, the work of the House ad hoc committee is mirrored by the new Joint Committee on Taxation, which House and Senate members agreed to form in the recent legislative session. Its mission is to develop a report by 2006 that reviews the state's revenue laws, analyzes ways to make a more workable tax system, provides advice for changes to the basic tax structure, suggests alternative revenue sources and develops long-term revenue recommendations.

Sound familiar? Like Noah and his animals, things in South Carolina seem to come in twos…or maybe threes.

Back in 1999, the Legislature authorized a different committee to study the local government funding system. That committee spawned an academic effort at the University of South Carolina called the Local Government Research Project. Guess what it's planning to publish in November? A comprehensive book on state and local sources of revenue.

S.C. Rep. Bill Cotty (R-Columbia) says the new House committee's work will provide a more sweeping view for lawmakers next year as they struggle with various revenue proposals, from increasing cigarette and gas taxes to revamping the way the state spends health care dollars.

"We're looking at [whether]we should be making short-term decisions that have any long-term impacts," he said. "We shouldn't," which is why the study will be helpful, he added. Results from this year's committee work also will provide information that will help the joint tax study committee as it develops a longer-term strategy, he said.

More than anything, what's really going on with all of these committees is our state's political leaders are trying to get ahead of the curve on how the state brings in money to pay for government services. With two more years of bad budget times expected because of the economic downturn and slow recovery, there's going to be a lot of pain in the offing unless lawmakers find new ways of doing things.

Regardless of political agendas that may creep into the work of these two committees, their work is vitally important. Taxpayers want to make sure their investment in government is worth it. They want services to be delivered efficiently and effectively.

While no one wants to pay more taxes, delivery of needed services - the main thing most taxpayers want from government - can't be done without revenues. Lawmakers should remember that cuts in revenues generally mean cuts in services. And that's something many people don't necessarily want.

11/3: Use your vote wisely: a lesson
10/27: SC GOP to keep control of House
10/20: Black voters may be secret weapon
10/13: Talk is cheap; action takes courage
10/6: Creating sunshine to dampen negative ads
9/29: SC Set to be world leader in news research
9/22: SC Senate shift could be around corner
9/15: Gov's race about barbs, ads, not people
9/8: Shorfall may cause look at prison alternatives
9/2: Revitalize your patriotism by participating
8/25: S.C.'s fiscal situation could be a lot worse
8/18: State wetlands policy needed
8/11: The bully vs. the whiner
8/4: Noah's Ark approach to tax reform
7/28: Two-party system could be political outcome
7/21: State budget woes loom for 2 more years
7/14: Agencies can do better job on Internet
7/5: Thank a guardsman today for service
6/28: Hodges-Sanford race will be wild ride
6/21: Sanford-Peeler race's impact on GOP
6/14: Ethics reform needed now

More done than you'd think(1.23)
More education $ also means cuts (1.22)
PSC reform to come, but when?(1.21)



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