May 25 2011
For ethical reasons, I cannot vote on the passage of S. 36. The original version of S. 36 that passed the Senate did not address the Amazon issue. S. 36 is a bill that gives a sales tax exemption to sales and rentals of home medical equipment (HME) subject to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. The logic behind this bill is that HME providers can’t collect the sales tax from the consumer or Medicare/Medicaid. Since Medicare’s competitive bidding process is in its beginning stages, this tax exemption puts SC HME providers on a level playing field with those in our neighboring states. Since I am a provider of home medical equipment and would personally benefit, I found it necessary to recuse myself from voting on S. 36 in the Senate Finance Committee and in the full Senate.
Last week, the SC House amended S. 36 to include the sales tax exemption for the Amazon distribution facility in Lexington County. Since it still contains the language benefiting HME providers, I am compelled to recuse myself again as the Senate considers S. 36.
However, I’m told by Senate attorneys that I will be able to vote on amendments addressing Amazon if they don’t affect the HME tax.
There are many unanswered questions about this deal that the Senate will address. One issue I have is Medicaid funding. Let’s say Amazon starts to sell cigarettes online. What happens to our Medicaid funding if a majority of South Carolinians start purchasing cigarettes from Amazon online? At a savings of $5.70 per carton, that is a real possibility to a chain smoker (unfortunately, we have many). Even though S. 36 currently does not require Amazon to collect and transfer sales taxes to the Department of Revenue, the consumer is still required to pay this tax when they file their income taxes. Is there some common ground for the DOR to enforce this requirement that most citizens are not aware of?
The Senate will take up S. 36 this week. I look forward to a healthy debate on this issue, and hope we can amend S. 36 to attract Amazon and maintain a level playing field in the free market.