Act 388, the sales tax/property tax swap passed by the General Assembly two years ago, is unbalancing the tax burden and making it difficult for schools to fund their programs. It should be replaced. It shouldn't have been passed to begin with.
It isn't like lawmakers didn't realize there would be problems with this law. Educators raised objections to it. ...
Now, the consequences are being felt. Growing school districts are struggling to take care of their needs through their stagnant allowance from the state and the limit on local taxes. It is only a matter of time before the owners of modest homes realize they are subsidizing a tax break for the owners of much larger homes.
The answer is not another round of piecemeal reforms. The General Assembly has passed so many of these quick fixes over the past two decades that the state's tax system has become complex, unfair and unstable.
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Lawmakers must undertake a complete redesign and rebalancing of the state tax system -- one that restores local control, allowing school districts, cities and counties to raise their own revenue, and one that fairly distributes the burden of funding state and local government.
The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News on governor's memo, Sept. 22:
Come June, when the South Carolina General Assembly adjourns for six months, the attention of the people turns away from Columbia. South Carolinians tend to move blissfully through the summer and fall months in the belief they're safe from the politicians and bureaucrats at least until January, when the legislature reconvenes.
Not so, Gov. Mark Sanford warned them in an extraordinary memo recently. Sent by e-mail to hordes of recipients across the state, the memo, titled "A Message from Mark," warns residents that this is an especially dangerous time for them to take their eyes off state government. ...
Sanford, a nice guy with a big though inflexible brain, remains enormously popular. That should be a huge political asset. But thus far, Sanford's exhortations to voters to oust legislators who don't support his agenda and to demand lasting reform in Columbia have not worked. ...
South Carolinians, in short, like it that Sanford is out there fighting for change, but seem not to care whether change actually happens. They seem to like things in Columbia as they are -- messy, inefficient and unattractive though they be.
Will "A Message from Mark" shake South Carolina residents out of their late-summer torpor and turn things around politically for Sanford? That would be good for our state long term. But it's not something on which we'd bet the farm.
On the Net: www.myrtlebeachonline.com
The Beaufort Gazette on poverty's affect on schools, Sept. 24:
Poverty is a key factor in Beaufort County's performance on the state's standardized tests, and it illustrates why the state should not consider this a "rich" county undeserving of the financial support other districts receive. ...
It's a strong case for a state education funding formula that takes into account student poverty when allocating state dollars.
Unfortunately, escalating property values have prompted a sharp drop in state funding through the Education Finance Act. Since 2003, the district has seen its portion of EFA dollars go from $8 million to zero. The funding is based on a complicated formula that takes into account a district's "ability to pay." ...
Various state-level committees are looking at changes in how South Carolina pays for education. It's a tough sell to redistribute education dollars. If spending stays the same, a redistribution means someone is going to get less than they did before.
But we're past due for a fresh look at where state education dollars go and the role local government plays in it, especially after statewide property tax reform limited increases in local property tax rates.
Lawmakers must remember that poor people live in "rich" counties, and they need our help.
On the Net: www.beaufortgazette.com/opinions
The (Charleston) Post and Courier on "no parole" proposal, Sept. 24
The no-parole proposal of Attorney General Henry McMaster already has attracted the attention of legislative leaders who see its possibilities for keeping felons in prison for most of their sentences. The main benefit would be to reduce the number of crimes committed by felons out on parole.
Corrections Department Director Jon Ozmint has raised substantive objections to the proposal, saying it will remove an inducement to keep inmates in line while in long-term lockup. ...
... S.C. League of Women Voters President Barbara Zia raises another red flag to the proposal. She cites the experience of Virginia, which instituted a similar plan several years ago. The Old Dominion saw an increase in both the expense of building new prisons and in operating them after the no-parole plan became fully effective, she writes. ...
Our series on the problems of the current parole system cited the horrific experiences of residents at the hands of felons out on parole. It also made the point that the current system has been hamstrung by a lack of state funding.
The experience of the Virginia prison system cited by Dr. Zia suggests that no-parole has difficulties and expenses of its own. The state should move deliberately to solve the problems of crime and punishment.
On the net: http://www.charleston.net/editorial