Today, the legislature begins the second half of the 120th Session. There is an opportunity to pass two massive reform bills that could move South Carolina’s antiquated government antiquated into the 21st Century.
The first of these bills is the restructuring bill, S.22. This legislation has passed both chambers and is sitting in conference committee. One contentious issue for S. 22 is where procurement for the state will go. Last year, legislators touted the perfect record of procurement under its current home, the Budget and Control Board. However, a major failure in the Budget and Control Board procurement process was discovered a few years ago, involving a multimillion dollar no-bid that went to a company with ties to a former legislator. Once the contract was put out for bid, taxpayers saved millions. Unfortunately, no one was ever held accountable for the failure. If procurement were placed under the Department of Administration, voters would finally be able to hold decision makers accountable in this crucial area of government.
The second opportunity for historic reform is a much needed ethics reform bill. Unlike like every other office holder in South Carolina, legislators campaign spending is not governed by South Carolina’s Ethics Commission. Instead, their campaign spending is governed by other legislators. This is a classic case of “the fox guarding the hen house.” Allowing the Ethics Commission to investigate potential ethics violations of legislators would remove the shroud of secrecy that currently covers the House and Senate Ethics committees. We would also like to see legislators disclose their private sources of income. Currently, legislators are only required to disclose any income from the state. Adding an additional layer of scrutiny will make sure there are no conflicts of interest.
This week marked the first time in South Carolina’s history that individuals and corporate taxpayers can receive a dollar for dollar tax credit for (up to 60 percent of their 2014 state tax liability) by donating to a Scholarship Funding Organization or SFO. The SFOs award exceptional needs students grants of up to $10,000 for tuition, books and transportation. There is a statewide cap on this program of $8 million in tax credits. To learn more about donating please visit IndependentED.org.
Additionally, Governor Haley released the 2014-2015 Executive Budget, which included a proposal to eliminate the 6 percent bracket for income taxes. If this proposal were adopted income previously taxed at the 6 percent rate would be taxed at 5 percent. Obviously, this would be welcome relief for hard-working taxpayers.
We are looking forward to the second half of this session. We have a chance to make South Carolina a better place to live, work and play.