South Carolina is in a budget crisis. There are hundreds of millions of dollars less in revenue coming in than needed to fund the state budget. Some cry out “hooray” and call for budget cuts here and there. The Governor offers symbolic cuts that really mean little in the grand scheme of things, such as cutting funding for ETV. Others are giddy about the prospect of cutting medical care benefits and education. After all, the people effected are not their friends and neighbors.
The Governor’s State of the State Address was weak. Republicans might tout it to tow the party line, but the truth is the Governor offered no real solution to the budget problem. The Governor ignored the real problem more than she did her parents in the balcony. Revenue is the problem. No government in the history of the United States, at the state or federal level, has ever cut its way out of a deficit.
A few years ago, the South Carolina General Assembly decided to remove the sales tax off of food items. It sounded good then and it sounds good now. After all, it keeps the state from taxing the poor from buying groceries, right? It is a measure that can allow so called neo Conservatives to thump their chests about helping out the poor with a tax cut while gutting the programs that help the most needy among us and our children.
The fact is the elimination of the food item sales tax was done in the blind. There was no alternative source of revenue to make up for the lost money. Thus, hundreds of millions of tax dollars were left on the table while the state wallows around in a budget crisis.
Candidate Haley saw that and proposed bringing back the sales tax on food items. Governor Haley acts like she never said that. Just as a late night tryst with a midlands blogger, Haley’s flirtation with bringing back the food sales tax never happened.
Frankly, candidate Haley was right. The sales tax on food items does need to be brought back. Here is why.
First, let’s get real, South Carolina is not California. Despite with Howard Rich’s pro Haley minions would tell you, South Carolina state government spends very little compared to the other fifty states on government programs. South Carolina is not even Lamar Alexander’s Tennessee. We have cut the fat and are into the bone. With federal mandates and basic human decency expected in state government, we can not cut our way to balancing the budget. We have to have some revenue increase.
Why the food tax? Some say it hurts the poor the most. Well, that does not wash. Sure, poor folks will pay the food tax, but so will the others, and with it, the money for the programs that help the people of South Carolina flows in. Sales tax is the big revenue generator in the state coffers. Food items are a big part of that. The people will get what they pay for. Paying five percent on groceries will seem reasonable to a poor person who gets Medicaid access or a fully funded education for their children.
The real truth is that members of the General Assembly have too big of egos to admit that they made a mistake. This state was on sound financial footing when it had the sales tax on food items. When it was removed without an alternative source of revenue being found, it put us on the road we are on.
Some folks, such as the people around Governor Haley, are okay with that. They want to cut out essential programs because they do not affect people like them. But, they can find the money to pay the Governor’s staff more salary than ever and to fund Department of Commerce officials like never before. After all, that is their buddies. But, spending taxpayer money to make you child’s trip to school safer or to make sure that grandma and them are taken care of, well, forget that, they don’t have the paid lobbyist. And, why should former Lexington Medical Center employee Haley, a job got after her election to the SC House, care about the funding to more rural hospitals? They did not pay her.
So, if the General Assembly has any guts, they should stand up the Governor and her well paid cronies and reinstate the tax on food items to raise the revenue to make sure that the people of South Carolina get the programs that they deserve. Forget the cuts. The revenue is there to be had. Reinstate the food tax.
Further, if the legislature really wants to rectify all past mistakes, then it can bring back gambling outside the lottery, such as video poker, and tax it. Do the math. The coffers would be flush. All programs fully funded and then some. But, Howard Rich would be pissed. Haley and her minions could not have that, but they can find money to make sure her folks get paid well. What is really irking is that they hide behind God and morals. VUI calls bull manure on them.