“Trust, but verify” , taken from a Russian proverb, was often said by President Ronald Reagan especially during negations with the Soviet Union. While signing the INF (intermediate-range nuclear forces) treaty in 1987, Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev said to Reagan, “You repeat this phrase every time we meet,” to which Reagan answered “I like it.”
On Wednesday, S. 12 commonly known as the trac bill (tax realignment commission) received 2nd ready. This legislation sets up a commission of unelected “experts” to examine our tax structure in South Carolina. I’ve talked about this bill a few times hereand here. I have some reservations about this bill, yet we were able to make several repairs on the bill. Here are a few questions that came to my mind:
Is trac a backdoor tax increase? This is where I “trust but verify”. We’re told it is not a tax increase, and we’re told there’s no hidden agenda to raise taxes with trac, yet I introduced an amendment that requires the commission’s report to be either tax revenue neutral or revenue negative. When South Carolina’s economy is in the toilet, a tax increase will flush it down to the sewer. Will trac put food sales tax back on the backs of the poor? It better not! Unfortunately, my amendment failed by 1 vote.
Does trac jeopardize property tax relief of 200g? An amendment was offered by Sen. Nikki Setlzer (D-Lexington) to force the commission to stay away from anything that would add property taxes on your home. This was another win for us.
Is trac constitutional? The original language in the bill states that the legislature may only approve or disapprove the commission’s report. Amending the report would take a 60% vote. There was an amendment to change this stipulation to a hard 24 votes instead of the normal “present and voting”. Sen. Phil Shooman (R-Greenville) offered an additional amendment to change this to a simple majority. That was a great victory on his part. This change soothes some of the heartburn over the revenue neutrality issue.
Must the report filed as a bill? We amended trac to delete the mandatory filing, and leave it to the option of the members of the legislature to file trac’s report.
I’m in support of examining the tax structure to see if we could gain more fairness in theory, but you know the devil’s in the details, trac got my vote on 2nd reading, but after much conseration, I voted against trac on the final vote because we did not prevent the commission from recomending a tax increase. Trac passed on Thursday. Our conservative friend in the House are committed to making trac a revenue neutral commission. Let’s hope so.