By Rep. Bill Sandifer
Recently, I have spent a lot of time answering calls from people who are frightened and angry. These people have read about the ideas of the Tax Realignment Commission (TRAC). They are fearful that under TRAC’s proposals, they are going to have to choose between eating, paying for their medicines and having electrical power and heat in their homes. They are angry because they think the General Assembly has already accepted TRAC’s proposed changes to our tax code.
I share the huge frustration that’s out there. I don’t believe we should have tax increases for anyone right now, especially when the pain of the recession is still so real for so many of our citizens.
There are two distinct reasons I am upset. One is that TRAC’s ideas have been represented as if they are a done deal. In reality, they must be debated and voted upon by the General Assembly. This representation has caused a wave of confusion, angst and fear that has rippled through portions of our state’s population. Why create a tempest in a teapot when you don’t need to?
The second and more important reason I’m up in arms about TRAC’s proposed changes is that they increase taxes on necessities, not frills. Necessities are those basic items people need to survive. I am adamantly opposed to this approach because of the negative impact it would have on so many people, especially the elderly and the poor. Too many households in our state are already in desperate shape and TRAC’s proposals hit them where it hurts most.
For instance, one idea being proposed by TRAC is restoring the sales tax on groceries, which we eliminated in 2007 to give hardworking families a break. Another is repealing tax breaks on basic utilities — water, electricity and natural gas — which families must have to survive. Yet another is adding a sales tax on prescriptions drugs, which would make South Carolina one of only a handful of states in the nation to have such a tax.
In addition, TRAC is proposing a five-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline, which would hurt families who must drive to work and school and raise business costs for some of our major industries like tourism and distribution. This makes absolutely no sense.
When it’s more expensive to live in South Carolina, as it would be under the changes TRAC is currently proposing, it also hurts our job creators — business and industry across our state. As the cost of living goes up, employers typically are forced to pay higher wages, but employees receive no real benefit — more of their money is going to the government.
The need to pay higher wages creates a disincentive for new businesses to come to South Carolina and set up shop. If we want our economy to grow and recover, we have to avoid tax increases that hurt business. After all, the key to increasing revenue is putting people back to work, not raising taxes.
TRAC’s proposals bring to light the fact that we must make some tough decisions as a state. We simply cannot afford to raise taxes during a recession or in its aftermath. I believe we have to attack spending and continue limiting the size of government to deal with declining revenue, instead of raising taxes. This is the key to creating jobs and creating growth, which must be our top priorities.
The people of South Carolina should be the ones to decide how their hard-earned money is spent, not the government. In fact, I have heard it said that, “A government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you’ve worked for.” That’s what happens when we raise taxes instead of limiting government, but it’s not what we need in South Carolina.
For the many reasons stated, I am adamantly opposed to the changes to our tax code TRAC is proposing.
Sandifer represents District 2 in the SC House of Representatives and chairs the House Labor Commerce and Industry committee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.