South Carolina has a convoluted tax structure which relies on tax incentives and credits based on capital investment thresholds via fee in lieu of tax agreements (FILOT.) A more competitive option would be to lower taxes overall for small businesses just as we do for large corporations. In order to do this, the tax structure needs to be reformed.
In order to reduce the individual tax burden and make the tax structure more competitive, the first step should be to have greater transparency into the operations and expenditures of state departments. As I’ve learned in local government, tax increases are hardly ever necessary once we understand how government is really spending money.
In order to lower taxes, we must address spending. I support legislation like the South Carolina Checkbook Act, which allows for an easy to use searchable online database to view every dollar that’s being spent by the state. This kind of transparency of taxpayer funds acts as a deterrent to waste and abuse.
Lower and Abolish the Individual Income Tax
I believe the fruits of your labor are yours and not the governments. With 5 tax brackets and the highest rate at 7%, South Carolina has one of the marginally highest individual income tax rates in the Southeast. This should be reduced or abolished to allow us to be more competitive and allow South Carolinians to keep more of their own money. States with no income tax have recovered faster from the recession than states with an income tax.
I also support exempting veterans, first responders, firefighters and law enforcement from paying income tax.
Reduce Sales Taxes
The cost of goods definitely effects purchases by consumers. South Carolina has a 6% sales tax rate currently on certain goods and services. There is also local option sales taxes which a number of counties and cities utilize currently. For example, Laurens County has a 1% local option sales tax that is used to offset property taxes. This normally generates about $2.8 million a year in Laurens County alone. The state gets this money and then returns a portion, usually around $800,000 back to the county to optionally apply to the county budget.
Usually, these optional local taxes have specific purposes for capital and so forth. The tax burden is further compounded by municipalities and counties having their own sales taxes. In some areas of the state this has resulted in as much as 9% or more in sales taxes. Some areas in the state only have the 6% state sales tax with no local option sales tax. These places tend to have higher volumes of sales. More economic freedom allow for a greater quality of life.
There are a number of ways to reduce sales taxes and allow us to be more competitive. One of the easier options is to reduce the state sales tax from 6% to 3%. This would require the elimination of exempt goods over a 10 year period.
Currently, a residents primary property is taxed at 4% while secondary properties are taxed at 6%. In District 14 there’s thousands of empty properties and dilapidated buildings. Wouldn’t it make more sense if these properties where fixed up and actually had people living or working in them? For this reason, it would be very beneficial to reduce the secondary property tax rate and allow growth.
Local Government Fund
After the recession, many local municipalities, cities and counties struggled to maintain normal levels of services. This issue was compounded by changes to the formula and amount of funding returned to local government by the state. With certain local government functions mandated by the state and cuts made to the funding formula, it made it more difficult for local governments to fund services. As a county council member, I have seen a first hand the effect the local government fund has on local government and the services which they are mandated to provide. As a State Rep, I will work to return proper funding to local government.