The gun tax holiday

Others' Views

December 13, 2008 

A lot of people were surprised to find out that the state was offering a tax-free weekend after Thanksgiving -- for guns. Even happy gun-store owners had not realized that the Legislature had chosen to single them out for a business-booster.

Little wonder. The latest twist on the absurd tax-holiday craze didn't get debated in the Statehouse. It just got passed. At a time when the economy was already starting to tank and state agencies were being told they'd have to make do on less money than the previous year, our legislators were so convinced that temporarily removing the sales tax from guns was a great idea that they didn't feel the need to debate it. ...

South Carolina has far too many exemptions, they often serve no clear state goal -- and often are at odds with our state's values -- and our Legislature is embarrassingly promiscuous about handing out more. This gun weekend is just the latest. ... But pretty much all the gimmicky special-interest tax breaks are bad, and ought to be repealed.

Tax restructuring

It has been obvious for several years that South Carolina needs to design a new tax system, but the state's current budget crunch makes that truth even more evident.

The Palmetto State has suffered through the accumulation of decades of legislative tampering with the state's tax system. Lawmakers who wanted to appear responsive to taxpayer distress passed quick fixes without considering the larger impact they would have on the state's financial health.

When taxpayers complained about high property taxes on vehicles, lawmakers passed a provision that allowed the assessments to be reduced. They didn't worry that this simply shifted the tax burden from vehicles to homes and businesses. ...

The General Assembly will be pressed to deal with the current budget crisis when lawmakers return to Columbia, but they must start a long-term effort to deal with the state tax system. A whole new tax system that promotes economic development, allows school districts and local governments to control their own finances, and distributes the tax burden in a fair manner has to be constructed.

There are no quick fixes. It will take time and hard work, but it has to be done.

New voting rules

South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell said that a measure he pushed through recently will make government more transparent. It will actually serve only to muddy the waters on how representatives vote -- or don't vote -- on roll call measures.

The new rule in the House calls for all successful roll call votes to be counted as unanimous votes of "yea" unless a representative goes to the clerk's desk and has his or her vote recorded as a "nay." And that counts House members who are not even present for the voting.

This absurd way of letting South Carolinians know what is going on in the chamber does nothing of the sort. Under previous rules on voice votes, the way members weighed in on an issue could not be confirmed or documented.

That will continue to be how it is under Mr. Harrell's new rule. It is nothing but a thumbing of the nose at the taxpayers of South Carolina who deserve to know how their representatives vote in Columbia.

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