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Peeler pushes for work in S.C.

LAKE WYLIE -- S.C. Sen. Harvey Peeler doesn't want to reinvent the battery that powers South Carolina's economic engine. He just wants to give it a jump start.

Peeler, representing four District 14 counties including York, could see his "Jumpstart South Carolina's Economy Plan" to allow tax incentives for companies hiring unemployed South Carolinians on the Senate floor as early as this week.

"This is a good first step," Peeler said of the plan. "It's simple."

The plan was introduced earlier this month and brought before the Senate Finance Committee last week, where it received favorable comments before being submitted for full Senate debate.

"There was some concern on the fiscal issue," Peeler said of the plan. "My answer is that you're going to have a positive fiscal impact on the state of South Carolina because you're putting people back to work."

Earlier this month, the South Carolina Employment Security Commission released unemployment figures for March. Those results showed a record-tying 11.4 percent unemployment rate, on the back of a record 248,578 unemployed South Carolinians.

South Carolina ranks second nationally in unemployment percentage, almost three full points higher than the national average.

Sen. Wes Hayes, District 15 representing York County, agrees that despite there being no official fiscal impact study, Peeler's plan addresses state unemployment. Hayes says the state of South Carolina can't provide residents with necessary services if a large numbers of them are unemployed and not paying taxes.

"It may be a money-maker for the state and not a money loser," Hayes said. "It may be cheaper to give a $100 tax credit for someone getting a job if it's getting them off the unemployment rolls."

The original plan allows any state employer who hires "an unemployed South Carolinian" to receive a $100-per-month tax credit for each employee hired beginning July 1. Employers become eligible for the credit when the employee completes four consecutive weeks of work, at least 35 hours each week. The tax credit is available for 24 months, maxing out at $2,400 per employee for two years. The total amount of the tax credit cannot exceed the amount of taxes the employer pays in a year, but any excess amount can be carried to the following year.

"Getting people back to work is certainly our No. 1 issue," Hayes said. "It's got to be the No. 1 priority."

Issues such as health care, schools and safety also are pressing, but without a workforce those issues become secondary, Peeler said.

"You can't put a price tag on that," he said of his plan's benefits. "There's no doubt about it. If momma and daddy can't find a job, they'll have to move somewhere else where they can."

More about the Jumpstart Plan

Sen. Harvey Peeler's Jumpstart Plan defines an "unemployed South Carolinian" as someone who:

• Is hired between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010

• Has been receiving unemployment benefits in South Carolina for at least four weeks

• Remains in the position with the employer for at least four weeks, working a minimum of 35 hours per week

• Has no return-to-work date or promise of future employment

• Provides a notarized affidavit the individual is a U.S. citizen or has a green card

• Was unemployed immediately prior to being employed