Just last week brought the announcement of a fourth round of budget cuts for the state, bringing the grand total to $1.2 billion. And this year’s economic forecast doesn’t look any better.
Listen to folks within state government and you’ll hear talk of program cuts, furloughs, and job losses. It almost makes you wonder how in the world lawmakers could cut more from state budgets. But they have to.
Reality is the 170 men and women we’ve elected to serve under the copper dome in Columbia are now facing the consequences of their less-than-economically-conservative decisions of the last 4 or 5 years.
They’ve taken surpluses and spent them, instead of saving up for the inevitable rainy day.
They’ve expanded grants and programs to “bring home the bacon”, instead of moderating growth.
And they’ve made the state’s revenue stream dependent upon the most fluctuating income source… the sales tax, instead of taking on the hard task of real tax reform.
The passage of Act 388 did as much to exacerbate our state’s current financial condition as did this economic recession we’re in. By trying to bring “tax relief” to homeowners (i.e. voters), lawmakers did the old switch-a-roo… reducing property tax for a one cent increase in the state sales tax. But they failed to realize what that would do to revenue during economic anorexia.
Historically, South Carolina is slower at economic recovery than other states. Our economy is not as diverse, nor is our tax system as equitably distributed as it should be. It’s going to be tough times for state agencies for the next few years, but if lawmakers don’t make real tax reform a priority on Tuesday morning when they head back to work, it’s going to be even tougher for the state to recover from our economic woes.
“There is no question that tackling this monstrosity will be difficult — more this year than in a normal year. That’s why a growing chorus of business and civic leaders is calling for the creation of an independent panel, whose recommendations lawmakers would have to accept or reject as a package.”
Hopefully, lawmakers will realize they can’t piecemeal our tax system together in a vacuum. They must rely on outside expertise to come up with comprehensive, long-term solutions. If they don’t, this state will continue to hobble along, struggling to compete in a 21st century economy.