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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Does Condon Blitz Prove Strength or Weakness?
Jimmy Moore
May 6, 2002

(Commonviews 2002 is a series of articles examining the most important issues in South Carolina's 2002 statewide GOP primary races. Click here to find out more about the purpose of Commonviews 2002 and how to submit your own suggestions for future topics of discussion.)

Can you tell we are getting closer and closer to the June 11th primary election yet? If not, then the words spoken by several GOP gubernatorial candidates in the last few weeks certainly should have alerted you that it's on the way.

It seems there has been an orchestrated effort on the part of many of the Republican candidates for Governor to turn their negative campaigning attention to the property tax elimination plan offered by Attorney General Charlie Condon. While his plan has been out there for everyone to see since he first announced it in January this year, the negative blitz against it is now well underway.

The first criticism of Mr. Condon’s plan was a stealth one that came from the lips of the current leading candidate in the race for the Republican nomination for Governor, Lieutenant Governor Bob Peeler. In the debates at Furman University in Greenville, rather than calling Mr. Condon’s plan a tax cut or tax elimination, Mr. Peeler chose to call Condon’s plan a “tax shift.”

Remember those two words. They are code words from the Peeler campaign when describing Charlie Condon’s property tax elimination plan. Anytime someone on or anywhere else in the media calls Condon’s plan to eliminate property taxes a “tax shift,” then it is a clear indicator that the comments have come directly from the Peeler campaign and/or his supporters. They think you won’t notice it, but you have and you will!

This reminds me of the tactic used by the Democrats several years ago in their accusation that the Republicans are “starving children” by not supporting the school lunch program. Another more recent example of Democrats using code words is when they say that Republicans are “raiding the Social Security Trust Fund” to pay for tax cuts. This purposeful manipulation of words coming from a supposedly conservative Republican like Bob Peeler is disturbing to say the least.

Then, last week, Secretary of State Jim Miles was promoted by an independent group called Citizens for An Independent Society in a radio commercial that began airing statewide. In the 60-second radio ad, the group accuses Charlie Condon of playing a "shell game" with the public over his property tax plan.

Here is what the radio ad says: "Jim Miles favors eliminating the property tax and holding down other taxes by holding down state spending. Charlie Condon would eliminate the property tax, but make you pay more in sales taxes. And Condon would not limit state spending so taxes would go up. Bait and switch. Shell game. Charlie Condon shouldn't play games with our pocketbook."

Miles’ campaign vehemently denies any knowledge of it or the organization who ran it. Peter Foster, the group’s executive director, said the ad was created solely by them and was not financed by any campaign.

In existence since late February, Foster says that Citizens for An Independent Society was formed to provide education to voters about candidates for public office. In an open letter to the Condon campaign and the press, Foster said that he is willing to pull the radio ad if Condon will sign a pledge never to support an increase in either the sales tax or the income tax.

The most malicious assault on Charlie Condon came from Columbia accountant and tax attorney Ken Wingate. He claims that Condon’s property tax elimination plan was an attempt to "perpetuate a fraud on the people." In response to Condon’s pledge to end property taxes in his first term as Governor or he won’t seek a second term, Wingate says that it is impossible for Condon to get a Constitutional amendment passed to accomplish his property tax elimination in only 4 years. Wingate said “either you (Condon) do not understand your plan or it is a lie.”

Wingate is only upset at Condon, not the other candidates, because he has supposedly not been forthcoming with his plan. Wingate says that the other candidates who have offered tax plans have “come out in the light of day” in explaining their proposals.

After watching this onslaught of misinformation being spewed from the mouths of Peeler, Miles and Wingate, I have a duty to refute what each of them have said because they are just not true.

Charlie Condon is the ONLY Republican candidate for Governor who wants to end ALL property taxes NOW, including those on homes, cars and businesses by eliminating unnecessary business sales tax exemptions, cutting local government administrative costs from 30% to 25%, getting rid of the property tax collection system and offering citizens options for the remaining revenue.

Mr. Condon even proposed several months ago what he calls the Palmetto Restructuring Plan that cuts wasted government spending by creating a cabinet level Chief Information Officer (CIO), consolidating eleven health care agencies into one, merging First Steps into the S.C. Department of Education, reforming the Department of Commerce and ending all property taxes and restructuring the revenue system. These proposals account for costs savings in excess of a half billion dollars.

Here’s how the Condon Property Tax Elimination Plan adds up:

Total amount of property tax revenue collected in 2001:
$2.3 billion

- Palmetto Restructuring Plan savings:
$500 million

- Eliminating unnecessary business sales tax exemptions except for those dealing with healthcare and education plus adding sales tax exemptions on food and medicine:
$900 million

- Cutting local government administrative costs from 30% to 25%:
$400 million

- Getting rid of the property tax collection system, the most expensive tax collected in South Carolina:
$100 million

- Offering several options for the remaining revenue:
$500 million

Here are the three options:

Option 1
Cut property taxes by 50% and phase out property taxes over 4-10 years by paying for it with future government growth.

Option 2
End property taxes NOW and replace the revenue with a 1 cent increase in the sales tax.

Option 3
End property taxes NOW and replace the revenue with a 1% increase in the state income tax.

Any one of these options would create the remaining $500 million to completely eliminate property taxes forever in South Carolina. However, Option 1 would delay ending property taxes for several years and would depend on future governments to control spending. This option, which is very similar to the ones proposed by Miles and Peeler, has not been favored by the people at the town hall meetings despite the fact that it does not include any increases in the sales tax or state income tax.

Option 2 is favored by many since it will end property taxes immediately in exchange for a very small increase in the sales tax. Additionally, essentials such as food, medicine and education are exempt from all sales tax. And unlike what some of the opponents of this plan would have you believe, the gas tax is NOT increased. One other factor that makes this option so favorable is the fact that over 20% of all sales taxes collected in South Carolina are paid by non-residents, especially during the summer when we have a lot of tourists visit our great state.

Option 3 is also favored by some people because they like the deductibility factor on their federal income taxes. Also, it is based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

Adding these cost savings up, the total amount of replacement revenue created comes to $2.4 billion, which is more than $100 million more than what is needed to accomplish the goal of completely getting rid of all property taxes in South Carolina.

An important factor to remember about Condon’s plan is that it only accounts for a dollar-for-dollar replacement of property tax revenue. It does not take into effect any increased economic activity as a result of people and businesses having more money in their pockets to spend as a result of not having to pay any property taxes. People will spend this money and create an even greater amount of funding for local governments than what we have today under the current property tax system! The result will be even more revenue for local government services such as schools, police and fire departments. Even conservative estimates of econcomic growth show a sharp increase in local services funding under Mr. Condon's property tax elimination plan.

Everyone who has seen this plan at Mr. Condon’s more than 30 town hall meetings held across South Carolina this year knows that this plan can and will work. His opponents know this and are doing all they can to discredit him and his revolutionary idea for boosting the economy in South Carolina. Nevertheless, Mr. Condon is committed to making South Carolina the greatest economic success story in the nation by the end of the decade!

The severe blitz of negative campaigning coming from the other candidates reminds me of a quote from a famous American President regarding how he handled the attacks he received during his presidency:

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how--the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."
--Abraham Lincoln

What do YOU think?

Do the attacks on Charlie Condon’s property tax elimination plan indicate his strength or weakness in the GOP gubernatorial primary race?

Are the attacks on Charlie Condon’s property tax elimination plan justified or are they little more than negative campaigning?

Has your impression of the candidates making the attacks changed since they started their assaults?

Do you think Charlie Condon is responding in the best way to these attacks?

Click on the "Comment On This Article" button below and discuss negative campaigning in the GOP Governor’s race and tell us what YOU think. Feel free to justify your candidate’s criticism of Charlie Condon or to defend Charlie Condon’s property tax elimination plan. This should be an engaging discussion.

Previous Articles In the Commonviews 2002 Series:
Not All Property Tax Plans Are the Same 
Candidate Debates Show Individuality
A Closer Analysis of GOP Gubernatorial Poll
Campaign Sign Contraband & Shenanigans
Ozmint-A Prosecutor Or Politician?
McMullen Missing Experience?
Commonviews 2002 Series Coming to

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