Sorry, I just can't help but climb onto my political soapbox for this one.
The South Carolina legislature pass a tax increase in cigarettes last night, raising the tax by .50 cents a pack. That tax would still be lower then the national average, but it is a significant step.
Now I am of the mind that some South Carolinians will simply say "that's to much" and will give up smoking. Hopefully many do, as it is an activity that has a high potential for some serious life threatening diseases to the smoker. But realistically, that isn't likely to happen right away. So at least for the short term, this tax could represent an influx of new monies.
The bill hopes to help give funding to our state's Medic-aid program, which is in dire need of funding. Not too long ago, our budget shortfall threatened to make it possible to cut funding to our disabled citizens, which would have a terrible ripple effect. That proposal was tabled. It is possible that this pending tax bill was planned to help with that issue. Other proposals for the bill was to help with funding for agriculture and transportation issues, but they were removed to help spur the passage of the bill. It isn't a perfect solution, nor will it be a long term solution, but it is something that would help bring funding to one aspect of our state's budgeting needs. The bill passed.
Our governor has promised to veto the bill. His apparent reasoning is that we need an off-set tax in that bill someplace equal to the tax increase. Ok, this is where I scratch my head in wonder and say WHAT???
We are in a budget shortfall because our legislature and our governor has cut taxes and spent what used to be a budget surplus. They ignored the fact that economies have downturns and acted as if the sky was going to be sunny forever and there would never be a rainy day. Then the thunderstorm hit. All of a sudden people were getting laid off, and losing homes, stock portfolios took hits, and a whole lot of South Carolinians signed up for unemployment and state assistance. That rainy day fund quickly went dry. Our elected officials in Columbia looked for ways to tweak their budget to stem the flow of money pouring out too quickly. They even took a little unpaid furlough. It is obvious that spending had to get under control, but that was only part of the solution.
SC depends on taxes and fees to operate. We have a fairly low sales tax, lower for food, a lottery for which we get about .25 out of every dollar, lower property taxes on higher higher valued homes, the lowest cigarette tax in the nation. In all honesty there isn't much more that I can see where we can reduce the state's revenue stream. We get some funding from the feds for programs, but that only covers part of the state's needs. The rest must come from ourselves.
A few weeks ago I had emailed both my state representatives about the threatened cut to disability. The one response I got was honest, but still disappointing. They were hoping for yet received federal funding to help offset this crises. After speaking with people in other states, I realized that that funding was likely not forthcoming. We are a little more on our own when it comes to our state's citizens who are low income, or disabled and in need of healthcare.
Therefore I am appalled that our governor would even consider vetoing this matter. Cutting more taxes elsewhere fixes nothing, we need to start looking at ways of upping our state's income, as we also look for ways to operate smarter, and a bit leaner. Sorry to bust your bubble Mr. Sanford, but to make more money for our budget, you have to earn it. To earn it in government means a phrase you apparently find horrific...higher taxes. Yes, its an ugly combination, but it is right now a very necessary one. Sign the bill.