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A tax increase on South Carolina families came at the darkest hour

May 3, 2010

A tax increase on South Carolina families came at the darkest hour

By Lt. Governor André Bauer

With a track record of successfully stopping more than $2 billion in tax increases over the past eight years, I never in my wildest imagination would have foreseen that in the darkest hours before dawn last Friday I would be unable to halt millions of dollars in tax increases disguised as vehicle registration fees and increases in hunting and fishing licenses.

As presiding officer of the Senate I had ruled the fees out of order. My ruling was right. There was objection to my ruling, and the Senate voted 28-14 to overturn my ruling, an action unprecedented in the previous seven years I had served as lieutenant governor.

“In the late hours of the night while you were sleeping, a tax increase is proposed and ruled out of order, the chairman is kicked out of the chamber and the taxpayer is shafted once again,” wrote Sen. Kevin Bryant in his blog about those events.

Instead of biting the bullet and finding a way to fund law enforcement, and even presented  a likely target of  $500 million in agency slush funds, the choice was to impose a bunch of fees on South Carolina families and businesses.

Make no mistake: There are fees all over this budget. This is not the way to go.  Elected officials are going to go home and tell their constituents they didn’t vote to raise taxes, but they sure voted to raise fees.

This changes a long-established legislative precedent, and will ultimately add one more layer of an unfair tax burden on average taxpayers.  Whether they want to call it a fee, a tax, or an assessment, it comes out of the pocket of the taxpayer.

For seven years, we’ve been able to protect taxpayers from tax and fee increases being slipped in. But the rules went out the window before dawn on April 30th, and along with them, the protection of the taxpayers.

As president of the Senate, I have steadfastly ruled proposed new taxes and fees out of order.  In this instance, my interpretation was that by creating an annual fee, the proposal  changed permanent law.

In all, I have ruled more than $2 billion in proposed new taxes out of order.  None of my rulings have ever been overturned by the Senate until people who call themselves “fiscal conservatives” wrestled the leadership gavel from my hand.

I am disappointed  that “fiscal conservatives” turned their backs on the taxpayers this time.  True leadership requires  tough decisions in spite of tremendous pressure.

I believe that a fee is a tax increase.  Fees have to be paid out of household budgets.  Fees add to the fixed costs of business. I think every South Carolinian will agree with me when they have to give up something, cut back on something, in order to pay these fees.  We may have lost the battle on this issue, but the war is far from over.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:44 pm

    Thanks André,

    Now we know who to blame.

  2. C. Speight permalink
    May 3, 2010 5:05 pm

    Yeah … Nikki Haley has been saying this since she entered the race for governor and you (Lt. Gov.) have heard her said it repeatedly in debates and on the stump. What’s next? You gonna claim to be the daughter of immigrant parents and grew up in Bamberg?

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