SC senators want school district sales tax for education

03/25/2014 11:15 PM

03/25/2014 11:17 PM

Some S.C. senators want more school districts to have the option of pursuing an exclusive education sales tax for paying for school construction projects.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill Tuesday, sponsored by state Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, that would expand a current law to allow school districts in the state’s 46 counties to ask voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax for building projects.

Currently only two counties – Horry and Charleston – collect the 1-cent tax. The tax can be imposed for no more than 15 years before voters are asked to reauthorize it. Combined, the two counties raised almost $136 million through the education tax in the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue.

But before a school district can put the question to voters, the county where it resides must raise $7 million in accommodations taxes imposed on vacation and other temporary rental properties.

Peeler’s bill would do away with that requirement, allowing any school district, regardless of a county’s accommodations revenue, to pursue the tax.

The beaches and tourist attractions in Charleston and Horry counties give districts there an advantage, Peeler said.

“I wanted Cherokee County to be able to enjoy what Charleston and Horry counties have been enjoying for years. We don’t have a beach, we don’t have an ocean,’’ he said.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced Peeler’s bill Tuesday. But Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, objected to the bill, which makes its road to passage tougher.

Bryant said the people who will benefit from additional sales tax will push it, while “the poor fellow trying to find a couple of extra pennies in his pocket is at an unfair advantage. That’s why I’m against all these tax increases.”

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