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August 5, 2007 | South Carolina Headlines


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SC property taxes among lowest in nation
Ralph Bristol
February 27, 2006

Only three states in the U.S. have lower property taxes on residential homes than South Carolina.  The three are Hawaii, Louisiana and Alabama, in that order.  That doesn’t surprise me. Having lived in four other states, and having relatives in two others, I have done an unscientific survey of property tax rates and found that South Carolina’s rates are considerably lower than any of those states.


Now, thanks to the National Association of Home Builders, I have found a much more substantive report, and it shows that we have it very good when it comes to property taxes.  Frankly, I’m surprised that our state doesn’t use this fact more aggressively in our recruiting efforts.


The average South Carolina homeowner pays $5.49 in property taxes for every $1,000 that his home is worth. The actual tax varies, depending on your county, school district, your age and other factors, but the average tax on a $100,000 home is $549 dollars, compared to a national average of $1,127.  Since our home values are also below average, South Carolina is a literal haven for people seeking refuge from the high cost of owning a home.


We don’t fare quite as well when it comes to all property taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, South Carolina ranks 35th in per capita property taxes, with each resident paying an average of $754 in 2002. Governing magazine shows South Carolinians paying 3 percent of their income on property taxes, which ranks 27th.


We rank 35th in per capita income tax collections, but since we have the 8th lowest average income in the nation, our state income tax as a percentage of personal income is higher than the national average – not a lot, but higher.


Only 22 states have higher sales taxes than South Carolina.


In short, the one tax in South Carolina that is clearly (and much) lower than other states is the property tax on residential homes, and that is the tax that the legislature has focused on for a radical reduction.


But then, public policy is often, if not usually, dictated not by facts, but by feelings. For some reason, a majority in South Carolina “feel” that the residential property tax is a major burden, even though clearly it’s not – compared to other taxes. In a democracy or a democratic republic, people generally get what they want, unless it violates the rights of others.


It doesn’t have to make sense that that tax break South Carolinians want the most is a break on the taxes we pay on our homes.  If that’s what we want, that’s what we’ll get, and we should. That’s how our government is supposed to work. But it clearly doesn’t make sense.




The families of fallen police offices have found a way to get even with Governor Mark Sanford for his veto of a $500,000 memorial. He didn’t oppose the memorial. He opposed spending your money for the memorial when the state was short on cash. The legislature overturned the veto – of course.


Two weeks ago, there was a dedication ceremony for the memorial, and the author of the bill to build it, Rep. Shirley Hinson (R-Berkley) invited the governor because, she said, “it was the courteous thing to do.”


Then they egged him. Not literally, but figuratively. They called one of Sanford’s reliable enemies in the media, The State Newspaper’s Lee Bandy, and hurled insults at the governor for having “the gall” to show up at the dedication, and (gasp) even ask to say a few words.   Even though they invited him because it was the “courteous” thing to do, they left him off of the program. Bandy dutifully wrote that the governor’s attendance “appears more than a bit nervy.”


Gee, I wonder what all of the egg throwers would be saying today if Sanford had declined the invitation.  I suspect it would go something like, “First, he opposes the bill to create the memorial.  Now, he won’t even show the fallen officers the respect of showing up at the dedication.”


For the record, Sanford offered to make a donation if the promoters would drop their plans to make it a taxpayer-funded memorial and raise private funds instead. They wouldn’t do that.  Rep. Hinson, who invited Sanford because it was “the courteous thing to do,” recalled that the governor pledged to help, but she added, “I have never seen those private funds.” Of course not, you dolt! You used tax money instead!


Republicans Jake Knotts of Lexington and Wallace Scarborough of Charleston took their turns throwing rhetorical eggs at Sanford. Knotts said, “The guy has got gall.” Scarborough was somewhat more polite, saying only “Most of those officers and families are not wealthy people, and it’s difficult for those people to come up with that kind of capital.”  Right – the governor was suggesting that the fallen officers’ families pay for the memorial out of their own pockets. Good grief!


The truth is that it would have been easy to raise $500-thousand in private donations to build a memorial for fallen police officers, and it would have been much more meaningful if it had been done that way. It would have given people an opportunity to voluntarily show their appreciation for the officers’ sacrifice and empathy with their families’ grief. But Hinson and her colleagues wanted the credit, and they weren’t going to allow some tightwad governor to stand in their way.


Then, not happy with overriding his veto, they decided they should also sandbag him. Talk about gall! 


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