Bill S. 960 is a constitutional amendment to cap property assessments. The proposed ammendment to the amendmment by Senate Democrats appeared on its surface to simply cut property taxes, but in reality, it severely damages the intent of S. 960. Before we talk about a swap, lets put in a series of safeguards for the remaining property taxes.
S. 960 is the first safeguard and should not be “mucked” up and here’s why:
First, the amendment removes the funding for school operations. It does not, however, give any indication of how that funding would be re-supplied. This method of legislating reflects the height of fiscal irresponsibility Democrats are so famous for. South Carolina has only recently emerged from several years of budget deficits caused by creating recurring programs without a recurring source of spending. Furthermore, if the citizens of South Carolina want to send the responsibility of school funding to the state level, they deserve to understand how that responsibility will be met. South Carolinians deserve better from their government than empty promises, and this amendment amounted to nothing more than that.
Second, the amendment actually opens the door for future tax increases on the local level. While it does prevent taxing property for school operating funds, it specifically endorses taxing property for capital bonds, i.e. buildings. Down the road we’ll be right back where we started on property taxes except we will also have sales taxes through the roof: possibly 4 extra cents had we accepted the amendment.
Third, the amendment advocates a statewide property tax. I have said from the beginning, that I will never vote to swap taxes that are not revenue neutral. Without some indication of where the money to operate schools would come from, I cannot be sure this is revenue neutral. Fortunately Republicans tabled the amendment and the clean version of S. 960 passed the required 2/3 vote for constitutional amendments.