Man up, lawmakers: Override those vetoes

Little left to say, except it’s time for lawmakers of both parties in the House to set aside all the B.S., lay down their insecurities, eschew their customary fecklessness, man up and veto those indefensible vetoes. I’m talking about this veto and this one and this one and most of the others.

I’ve really had it with the argument from the GOP leadership that they just have to sustain most of these vetoes. Kenny denied it the other night when I asked whether Nikki Haley’s strong showing last week had scared the leadership into thinking they have to go along with the Sanford nihilists, even though they’ve slapped him down every other time (even when he had a case, which he doesn’t this time). But I’m convinced that’s the only logical reason to explain this fear to do the right thing. Cindi thinks so, too. And Cindi knows WAY more about the budget process than I do. You’ll note that she gives the governor credit where he deserves it, on fairly marginal issues that don’t involve much money (Cindi has always been much more inclined than I am to reach WAY out to try to find some things to give the governor credit on), but she concludes with this cold bath of common sense:

Most insidious is his repeated implication that by vetoing what he considers frills, he will cause the money to be spent on “core services” of government. Now, I’ll be the first to agree that, as he puts it, “the vast majority of this year’s budget should be directed to core government functions like public safety, education, and health care.” But the facts are that 1) that already is happening and 2) his vetoes do not redirect money from “frills” to “core services”; they simply allow the money to sit in the bank for a year.

I have long believed that the Legislature needs to either increase taxes or else eliminate some programs or agencies altogether (and probably eliminate some even if it does raise taxes). But that’s a decision that needs to be made in an orderly way, by a clear majority in the Legislature — not by a disgraced lame-duck governor with an ax to grind and a third of the members of the House. And perhaps not even by a Legislature that is too frightened of its own shadow to make rational decisions about the responsibilities that come with insisting on operating the government. If lawmakers can’t override most of the governor’s vetoes this week, perhaps they should make arrangements to come back to town later this summer, when emotions have settled down, to consider taking some of the money Mr. Sanford wants to squirrel away and using it to patch critical holes that he has created.

And as for you Democrats: I was much reassured by James Smith telling me yesterday that the Dems would override (with the caveat that while that was the leadership position, Dems don’t do bloc voting), but then I read the paraphrase of Joe Neal in the paper this morning saying Democrats have not decided how they will handle Sanford’s vetoes today and I wonder: Will they stick it out and do the right thing? (And you know what? This is one case in which we actually NEED the Dems to vote as a bloc, because that might embolden the jittery mainstream Republicans.)

If they don’t, and if the Republicans (minus the Sanford loyalists) don’t, then on the whole they are useless.

32 thoughts on “Man up, lawmakers: Override those vetoes

  1. Doug Ross

    Are you and Cindi ready to put your money where your mouth is and allow the legislature to remove the exemption from sales taxes on newspapers? A nickel a day and a quarter on the Sunday paper would go a long way toward funding those “frills”. I bet that would generate enough to pay for ETV.

    Or will you and Cindi say, “No, wait, we didn’t mean we wanted to raise taxes that might impact US! We’re talking about THEM!”

    We don’t even need to raise taxes. Just eliminate all the exemptions (like the indefensible 1% break on sales taxes for people over age 85). The legislature could do that pretty easily if they weren’t in the business of providing breaks to donors and special interests.

    Simplifying the tax code would also reduce costs of collecting revenues and enforcement.

    Flat tax with no loopholes, sales tax with no exemptions, property tax based on a per unit standard cost not property values. Those three things alone would generate enough revenue to pay for plenty of old Confederate junk and Okra Struts… maybe even a few teachers.

  2. Brad

    Yeah, sure, go for it — go after all those exemptions… which, by the way, is completely consistent with what we always said when I was at the paper. Throwing all billion or so in sales tax exemptions on the table would be a key part of comprehensive tax reform, which we’ve advocated until we’re blue in the face.

    But don’t just look at the sales tax on newspapers, because that won’t get you much money. Put them ALL on the table. Some may be able to be justified; I don’t know until we try. But we could do away with them all and I’d be happy.

  3. Michael P.

    Brad has written the same article 9 different ways, and nobody seems to be listening, so I guess the 10th time may be the charm.

  4. Michael P.

    “If they don’t, and if the Republicans (minus the Sanford loyalists) don’t, then on the whole they are useless.”

    You’ve pretty much summed up the state legislature for the past 10+ years.

  5. Brad

    Actually, I’m getting some good response from it — the kind that counts. The reason James Smith called me yesterday was that he kept hearing from my readers, getting on his case about the vetoes.

  6. Chris

    “… property tax based on a per unit standard cost not property values …”

    Can you explain the rationale behind basing a property tax on something other than the value of the property? That’s one of the more bizarre things I’ve heard in a while.

  7. Doug Ross


    It’s simple. Why should a homeowner pay more for the same services just because he has one more bedroom or an extra bathroom than his neighbor? What is the rationale for paying more for the same thing based on what the county “thinks” a home is worth?
    Same schools, same roads, same libraries, same police. If we can be charged a flat fee for trash pickup, why can’t it be the same for all services?

    Also, why should we expend millions of tax dollars to assess home values and arbitrate valuation disputes? Come up with a budget for the county and then come up with a per unit fee for dwellings. Simple, fair, and easy to understand instead of the bizarre assessment / millage calculation that is designed to confuse taxpayers. If everyone got the same bill for the same services, you’d see citizens paying a lot more attention.

    Same goes for cars. Why should an elderly guy who owns a new Cadillac and drives 5,000 miles per year pay more property tax than someone who owns an old pickup that is driven 25,000 miles per year?

    I’ve never understood the concept of “You own more stuff, you deserve to pay more taxes”. The upper income people already pay more in sales tax and income tax. Why not make property taxes fair?

  8. Brad

    And Chris, what Doug says he has “never understood” is the basic concept that has underlain property taxes since the founding of the nation — that the more property you have, the greater stake you have in the services that make for a civilization in which your property has value. Property owners, contrary to the ideology that unfortunately many of our fellow citizens buy into, have a much greater reliance upon government doing what it does than other people do. Without roads and police and water and sewer and fire and a system of laws upholding property rights and environmental protection and schools and libraries and parks and all the things that distinguish a civilized country from Somalia, property has no value. And the more your property is worth, the greater stake you have.

    This is why originally, you had to be a property owner to vote — it was assumed that no one else had a real stake in government and what it does.

  9. Doug Ross

    I reject your assertion that the more property you have, the greater stake you have in the services. There’s no basis in truth in that statement.

    Are you seriously going to tell me that you think a person should pay more for his car property tax because it somehow makes society better? Seriously?

    And, as I said, those with more already pay more in income and sales taxes. When I go to the doctor, he doesn’t ask me how much my house is worth before setting my fee. When my car has a flat tie, the mechanic doesn’t charge a different rates based on whether my car has leather interior.

    The only argument that seems to apply to the current property tax system is “Boo hoo, it’s not fair you have all that good stuff and I don’t! We need to take more of your money!”.

    Note that I am not saying I don’t want to pay taxes. I want to pay my fair share of taxes for the services I receive… not the share that someone sitting in a cubicle in Columbia thinks I should pay. I want a system that is simple, not complex. One that encourages everyone to participate.

    Do you know how many people try to get out of paying for school fees because they think public education is “free”? Maybe if they were paying what I’m paying, they’d take more interest in what’s going on.

  10. bud

    Brad is correct on this one. Wealthy folks benefit far more from government than the poor. And they need to anti up to pay for the good life.

  11. Doug Ross

    And, Brad, you’re talking about broad themes related to property ownership. I’m talking about the specifics of neighbors paying different amounts in taxes based solely on how many bedrooms or bathrooms their home has. Try and defend that system without waxing historical about doing things for the greater good of mankind.

  12. Doug Ross


    Prove it. Give me the specific examples of how “wealthy folks” benefit. I’ll start a list of all the benefits that the poor people receive from the taxes paid by the “wealthy”. We’ll see which list is longer.

    Paying up for the “good life” is what people say who are jealous of those who have worked hard to earn what they have.

  13. David

    And, as I said, those with more already pay more in income and sales taxes. When I go to the doctor, he doesn’t ask me how much my house is worth before setting my fee. When my car has a flat tie, the mechanic doesn’t charge a different rates based on whether my car has leather interior.

    Doug, this is so ridiculous considering your solution that we “come up with a budget for the county and then come up with a per unit fee for dwellings.

    My doctor doesn’t ask me how much my house is worth when setting up my fee but he also doesn’t total his expenses for the year and divide that by the number of residents in the town he serves and send everybody his bill. My mechanic doesn’t charge different rates based on the quality of my car’s interior but he also doesn’t just charge a flat per-car fee based on how much he thinks his expenses will be for the year.

    Face it. Taxes are not the same as fees for services. To say so makes no sense.

  14. Susan G.


    Are you OK with income taxes based on how much you earn? Shouldn’t that also be a flat fee? You don’t get more in terms of services because you earn more, either.

    And why a general sales tax? I don’t use more government services just because I buy more stuff at Walmart.

    So some sort of fee for use for some things (like cars, maybe?) and then for the rest, just divide the budget by the number of people and send them a bill?

  15. Michael P.

    Bud, how do the wealthy benefit far more than the poor? By paying more in taxes for the same services? You’re going to have to explain this one to me.

  16. Mark Stewart

    I need to go watch Homer Simpson smack his forehead.

    The state could benefit from a more progressive property tax base – and one not so shielding to higher value single family residential properties.

    Also, we don’t all pay the same for trash pick-up – we pay by the recepticle. If I have more trash generated on my property, I pay more to have it removed. And much more from my business.

    As I recall, a healthy part of the State’s budget actually comes from Federal sources; i.e., the people earning more in the other states (the “blue” ones mostly) are subsidizing the less economically advantaged states – like SC. Would you have those citizens take back those tax dollars?

    I’m reminded of the truism “life isn’t fair”. So let’s settle for just and equitable.

  17. Michael P.

    How much would be gained by eliminating the tax cap on vehicles? As many have already stated, you pay the same tax whether you purchase a $5,000 vehicle or a $50,000 vehicle.

  18. Doug Ross


    How do you think doctors and auto mechanics come up with prices? From the magic pricing genie?

    How does the guy who cuts my lawn decide on his price? He figures out how much money he needs to make a decent living and works it back from there.

    Anyone running a business has a budget based on expected revenue and expected expenses. They don’t just pick a number out of the air. Then they typically work backwards from the budget to come up with the prices they charge to cover expenses. And they adjust as necessary during the year. That’s how business works.

  19. David Knobeloch

    Oh really? Next time I go to the mechanic I’ll be sure to tell him Doug Ross thinks he should charge the me the same amount to fix my transmission as he does the next guy getting a flat tire changed.

  20. bud

    Obviously a poor guy gets little benefit from the government. If he did he wouldn’t be poor. Isn’t that obvious? How does a poor guy benefit from the courts, national parks, the military, the police and fire protection. They have no property or wealth that needs protecting. The wealthy benefit from the very laws that allow them to accumulate wealth. The oil company executives, to take one example, basically sponge off a federal government that allows them to siphon off enormous amounts of untaxed company revenue. The big wig bankers on Wall Street benefit from a government that allows them to sponge of the poor slobs who are tricked into abusing credit cards. The government protects these kinds of abuse through the courts who allow the bully companies to wheel and deal through chicanery and legal thievery.

    It’s not even close. The rich benefit enormously from our system of capitalism that is financed through the tax system. When some poor woman drives a 20 year old Corolla to Food Lion to use her food stamps to buy milk for her children she is assailed as a welfare cheat. If an oil company executive makes a hundred million dollars in a business that spoils the Gulf of Mexico he’s considered a capitalist. I say he’s a far bigger welfare cheat than the poor ghetto mom trying to feed her children.

    This whole capatilism experience that we have is hardly effective in providing the necessities for millions of Americans. How can you possibly suggest the rich are not the great beneficiaries of this system? It’s laughable to even try to make that argument.

  21. Doug Ross


    Not sure what you are trying to say. The auto mechanic charges for each service what he believes is the right price that when he adds up all the various services results in the revenue he wants to make. It’s pretty simple.

    Explain why if we can charge the same fee for trash collection for homeowners, we can’t do the same for fire, police, parks & rec, libraries, schools? Same services available to all. I don’t get charged per pound for the trash I put out. And I get charged whether I put it out or not.

    I live in a neighborhood with about 150 homes. I would guess that every single home pays a different tax bill. Does that make any sense? We all have the same access to services, all have the same stake in the community. The only difference is one house may have 4 bedrooms and the other has 3. An empty nester with no kids and a four bedroom house pays more property taxes than his neighbor who has four kids and three bedrooms. Fair? I don’t think so.

  22. Susan G.

    Actually, those of us who run businesses don’t come up with prices simply by figuring out how much money we’d like to make, and working backward, because there’s a market involved, and so the what the market will bear and the impact of competition play a huge part. I think one could call that “the magic pricing genie”. Usually, though, we call it the “invisible hand of the market”, since that sounds much more sophisticated.

    I’d still like to hear your reaction to my earlier post, Doug – I wasn’t being snarky – I was just wondering why you wouldn’t apply your logic to all taxes, and if you would, how it would work.

  23. Doug Ross


    How frequently do you change your prices? Doesn’t it depend on the product or service you provide? My lawn guy has charged the same price for three years. The guy who used to cut my hair would change it about once a year. A gas station changes the price daily. Government services probably fall into the once a year category.

    I think income taxes SHOULD be flat. Exempt the first $X dollars up to twice the poverty level and then charge the same rate for every dollar above that with no other exemptions, deductions, whatever. Make the collection of the tax as simple as possible. Then if the government wants more money, they simply change the rate on everyone — and if the people aren’t happy
    with the change, they can express their displeasure at the ballot box.

    Sales tax is probably the most fair tax because people can control what they spend. Exempt food and medicine and tax the rest at the same amount.

    I just find it interesting that there are states like New Hampshire, Texas, Florida that do far better than South Carolina in nearly all areas of public welfare, education, business development, job creation, etc. and they can do it without an income tax. New Hampshire doesn’t even have a sales tax. How do they manage to keep it so simple and yet South Carolina cannot?

  24. Susan G.


    Thanks for the response. In my case, I change my prices every year or two. (I’m still not sure what this then has to do with govt, but that’s what I do).

    As far as flat income taxes go — why would you want it to be a flat RATE against each dollar one earns? That sounds like the current property tax method still — where the amount earned (or value of the asset) is taxed at a percentage per dollar amount. It seems like it’s only consistent to what you’re talking about with property taxes if each person pays a flat AMOUNT — unrelated to how much they earn, since the amount of one’s earnings doesn’t necessarily influence the amount of govt services used. So how ever much you earn, if the total budget amount / number of taxpayers = $1,000, then that’s your tax bill.

    Same with sales tax — I understand the argument that sales taxes are fairer — but still, I don’t see how they make sense if the framework being used to determine fairness is whether the amount of taxes paid correspond to the amount of services used — which I think is the argument you’re making for property taxes, correct?

  25. Kathryn Fenner

    NH, FL and TX are not digging out of the economic and educational poverty that the plantation system and its demise left us with.

    NH gouges tourists, for one thing, and SC does not. Florida attracts a lot of beach-seeking, low service retirees and vacationers, and TX has oil. Those are just few diferences between us and them.

  26. Nick Nielsen

    @ Doug, those states don’t tax personal income, but do tax business income. See the summary sheets at New Hampshire and Tennessee also tax unearned personal income (investments, interest, dividends, etc.). In addition to use fees and sales tax, residents of those states also pay (surprise!) property tax, often at rates that would cause heart palpitations in South Carolinians.

    The thing that irritates me most is the sales tax exemption on car sales. Why should the sales tax on a new Hummer be the same as on a new Kia? I also hate the personal property tax, and would love to see vehicle registration restructured the way New York and many other states do it.
    -When you buy the car, you pay the full value of sales tax.
    – Registration fees are set using a sliding scale, based on the vehicle weight. New York’s current cap is $140 on a passenger vehicle of 6,951 pounds or more.
    – That money is allocated to DMV to cover expenses, with the remainder going to DOT for road maintenance.

    The problem, of course, is the counties then have to raise the property tax to cover the lost vehicle taxes. For me, this is not an issue. My house is valued at about a quarter that of my brother’s equivalent house in Westfield, NJ, but my property taxes are less than a tenth of his. It would significantly increase my property tax bill if I had to cough up an extra couple hundred a year to keep the county services I’ve got, but I can put the extra $20-$30 a month away easily. And I’d still be getting one over on my brother.

  27. Doug Ross

    Here’s an interesting site showing the migration of Americans from high tax states to Texas:

    You can click on any county in the country and see whether people are coming or going.. and where they are coming from/going to.

    “Migration statistics reveal that people are moving in droves to Texas. Why? Jobs and no state income taxes. High earning New Yorkers and Californians can take home between 9% and 11% more of their income by moving to Texas. Every trip down I speak to at least one bitter New Yorker/Californian fed up with high taxes and cost of living. Forbes recently posted a fun map of domestic migration by county. Travis County, where Austin is, experienced nearly all inflows (the black lines)”

    I’ve personally spent a couple months out of the past year in Dallas and saw the same thing – people buying homes, companies hiring people, busy malls. It’s not hard to see the correlation between lower taxes and a more stable business climate.

    @Kathryn – tell me more about how NH gouges tourists. I lived there from 1986-1990 and my mother still lives there. That’s the first I’ve ever heard of NH gouging tourists.

  28. Pat

    I’m glad to see some out of the box thinking on taxes. If we are going to revamp, everything should to be on the table. Some ideas: Vehicle taxes shouldn’t be on value, but weight. Tax on Value discourages replacing cars with safer, more efficient models. Sales tax on cars should be increased to $500 with an inflation adjustment every year. I don’t agree with removing the ceiling for the same reason as the vehicle property tax. 2. What about houses based on square footage, acreage, and road frontage with an owner occupied adjustment? Vacation/2nd homes should not be adjusted… and of course, age 65 and over exempt up to 2500 square ft. 3. I’m okay with a flat tax on income with exemptions, but no income tax on the established poverty level. 4. No taxes on prescription medicine. – I don’t have any ideas about commercial property. there are so many types of businesses. I know of a place that recycles cotton and it catches fire from time to time. It certainly uses more fire dept services that most.
    Maybe you guys can come up with a great revenue solution while our legislature fiddles.

  29. Kathryn Fenner

    We just got back from a trip through New England. I should have booked the hotel in White River Junction VT instead of Lebanon, New Hampshire. They tax everything a tourist does–eat, sleep and drive–the tolls on a very short, flat, bridgeless stretch of I-95 in NH are ridiculous. Vermont and Maine do not have those really high “hospitality” tax rates.

  30. Doug Ross

    But you didn’t pay any sales tax on anything else you bought in NH, right? That balances out some of the taxes.

    I’d love to know which states do not tax what you eat, sleep, and drive at a high rate.

    I spend 80% of my time traveling across the country and submitting expense reports. I can’t recall any state that DIDN’T hose the traveler on taxes.

    Here’s an example from last week in Florida:

    Room charge: $98
    Occupancy Sales Tax: 4.90 (5%)
    State Occupancy Tax: 6.86 (7%)
    12% total tax.

    Rental Car: $140 for 4 days
    Concession Fee: $14.67
    FLA Surcharge: 9.96
    Energy Surcharge: 1.03
    Tax: 14.79
    So $40 in taxes and fees on top of $140…

    Give me some real numbers showing how much difference there is between SC and NH.

  31. Michael P.

    Every state gouges tourists. Find one rental car or hotel room anywhere that doesn’t have at least 10% taxes on it on top of sales tax.

  32. Susan G.

    NH has a 9% tax on Hotels, Meals, Rental Cars. Don’t know how that compares to surrounding states, though.

    Like Nick says above, the interesting thing about NH is that while it has no sales or income tax (except on interest & dividends), it has very high property taxes, which are assessed on 100% of the value, as well as a 1.5% real estate transfer tax. In a county where I have relatives, for instance, the property tax rate is 2.18%.

    One advantage to their system is that they have very local control over where alot of their tax monies go. They have a town meeting every year that everyone attends and they hash out what they want to pay for and what they don’t.

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