Genuine tax reform should do no harm

Throughout his 15 years chairing the United States Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Russell B. Long of Louisiana described tax reform as this. "Don't tax you, don't tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree."

In 2007, the General Assembly passed a property tax reform bill that, while lowering property taxes for some homeowners, shifted the burden of the tax to businesses and removed the flexibility and predictability of local revenue streams for schools and municipalities.

Advocating for comprehensive tax reform based on sound research is a legislative priority for both the state's business community and municipal elected officials. Both are working toward the same goal: increase the state's competitiveness through an educated and viable work force while ensuring prosperity for all residents.

In its effort to make South Carolina more competitive in a global economy, the Palmetto Institute, S.C.'s leading economic research foundation, is identifying ways to reform the state's tax structure. When the research is completed, the S.C. General Assembly should take a long, hard look at the results and develop their plan of action based on that sound research.

From a business and local government perspective, South Carolina's tax system must be a fair and equitable system that spurs innovation, productivity, marketing and entrepreneurship and while providing adequate funds to invest in the state's assets and infrastructure.

The tax system should first and foremost do no harm. Arbitrary limitations or spending caps that are not accompanied by extensive study and research will limit success and opportunities both at the state and local levels. An increased burden on businesses and an unfair, inequitable tax structure will do harm to the state's competitiveness and ability to succeed now and in the future. South Carolina must have a long-term and well-researched tax reform plan to remain competitive, attract business and provide resources to its citizens.

In our current global economy, China and India's success in creating jobs directly affects South Carolina as if it were happening in Charlotte or Atlanta. Our focus can no longer be on what our neighbors across the river are doing. We must know what our neighbors across the ocean are doing to further our own competitiveness.

Successful businesses and industries are drawn to strong cities and towns with good schools, stable infrastructure, a positive quality of life, superior services and opportunities for growth and development. Our state's economic development efforts are directly tied to the strength of our state's regions with strong cities and towns at the core of progress.

South Carolina has no other choice. Our state must remain globally competitive and produce a work force that will propel our businesses and industries to the top. Our schools must provide lifelong learning opportunities, small class sizes and exceptional teachers to keep our best and brightest students in our state and at our state's colleges and universities. Our cities and towns must have the resources to offer exceptional services, provide a positive quality of life and make decisions at the local level in the best interest of their residents.

To accomplish this, our General Assembly must take a comprehensive approach to reforming our tax system. It is the only way to give us the opportunity to compete globally and succeed locally.