Property Tax Plan Deja Vu
March 15, 2004
A funny thing happened on the way to a wacky 2004 election year.
There's a very distinctive blast from the past happening among certain state senators in South Carolina who are up for reelection in the Palmetto state.
A bill has been submitted in the South Carolina Senate by these senators that would increase the state sales tax by two cents in exchange for the elimination of property taxes on homes and automobiles.
The long-time proponent of the bill is Sen. David Thomas (R-Greenville) who has pushed this proposal for more than two years with little success.
Thomas claims an extra $1 billion can be raised by increasing the sales tax by two cents. He hopes to reserve that money for redistribution to local governments to pay for essential services.
Another aspect of the property tax plan is that it would allow voters to decide if and when increases in millage rates can happen through a ballot referendum.
This plan is still awaiting passage from the state legislature. If it does pass, then voters will have the opportunity to accept or reject it in November. It could feasibly go into effect in January 2005 if it passes.
Thomas will likely push for a constitutional amendment if it passes to ensure it cannot be changed in the future.
Even Sen. John Hawkins (R-Spartanburg), who is one of the co-sponsors of the bill, has also been touting this property tax plan as a major part of his reelection campaign for Senate District 12 against businessman Lee Bright.
Last Monday, Hawkins said at the Spartanburg County GOP Executive Committee meeting that he supports the elimination of property taxes to help the elderly and poor. In fact, in an unrelated question posed to him, Hawkins said that his plan to eliminate property taxes would help solve problems experienced by his constituents.
Okay, wait a minute. STOP! Does any of this sound familiar yet?
Rewind two years ago to the Republican gubernatorial primary season when a certain candidate made it the centerpiece of his campaign to end property taxes in South Carolina in exchange for a two cent increase in the sales tax..
Who was that guy?
In fact, he was ridiculed quite often for answering even unrelated questions with, "And my proposal to end property taxes in South Carolina will help with this."
I can't seem to remember the man's name for some reason.
Ohhhh, now I remember. It was none other than former Attorney General Charlie Condon.
I vividly remember the snickers and elbows in the side every time Condon spoke about his property tax elimination plan at debates or his town hall meetings.
NEWSFLASH: THIS PLAN FROM THOMAS AND HAWKINS IS THE SAME THING THAT CONDON PROPOSED!
Let's take a stroll down memory lane for a moment at some of this criticism hurled at Condon over his property tax plan:
- Accountant Ken Wingate, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002 but later served in Gov. Sanford's administration, said this property tax elimination plan is unwise and unworkable because the numbers just don't add up.
- The Dorchester County Taxpayers Association has called the property tax elimination plan "The Flim Flam Sales Tax Scam" because it increases taxes on the poor, the sales tax cannot be deducted from your taxes, and the sales tax is unpredictable.
- Former dean of business administration Dale Molander said property taxes are a more stable form of tax revenue than the sales tax because of the volatility of the economy. He expressed concern about the continuity of services as a result of eliminating property taxes.
- David Brunori, contributing editor for State Tax Notes, said the elimination of property taxes is no more needed than the elimination of the income tax. He said getting rid of the property tax is bad public policy because it would move the funding of local services and control of how that money is allocated to the state.
These are just a few of the many criticisms Condon received over his tax proposal in 2002.
Now, fast foward back to 2004.
What makes Thomas and Hawkins think this idea has any more merit now than it did for a candidate who ended up in a distant third campaigning on the issue two years ago?
An election year is a difficult time to differentiate between what a candidate really believes and what he is willing to do to get elected.
It is quite obvious that there are politicians who will do or say anything to stay in political office. Even if they have to mimic a plan that failed to generate any enthusiam at the ballot box in 2002!