SC Democrats give sarcasm a try with new TV ad

This just in from SC Democrats:

COLUMBIA- South Carolina Democrats fired the opening shot of election season with a television ad criticizing Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley for her tax hypocrisies. The ad, titled “Thanks Nikki,” will begin airing today in Columbia.

In the ad Mark Sanford’s disciple, who voted for a two percent rise in the sales tax and against a sales-tax exemption for groceries, is “thanked” by her constituents for failing to vote for South Carolina interests. Video may be also viewed on the ad’s companion site,

South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler said today that the ad will inform voters about Haley’s real legislative record.

“Voters deserve to know the truth about Nikki Haley and her record of broken promises,” said Fowler. “This ad only skims the surface of Haley’s hypocrisy and highlights the stark contrast between her campaign promises and her actions in the legislature. Voters are already starting to realize that Nikki Haley’s candidacy is all smoke and mirrors. South Carolinians are ready to move forward with real leadership.”

Nikki certainly asks for sarcasm, by running on transparency while dragging her heels on being transparent, and by touting her accounting abilities while failing repeatedly to do what most of us do every year (file our taxes on time).

But whether this approach will work remains to be seen. For one thing, it’s too focused on taxes, rather than the items that she’s really begging for sarcasm on. And yeah, Nikki voted for the execrable Act 388, which is a big reason why the Chamber is backing Vincent Sheheen. And while that act foolishly and carelessly raised the sales tax, it did so in order to (equally foolishly and carelessly) drastically reduce property taxes on owner-occupied homes. And if I’m a Haley supporter, I’d protest vociferously the use of a house (for the “through the roof” metaphor) to illustrate the point that she raised sales taxes, thereby subliminally giving the erroneous impression that she raised homeowner property taxes.

Of course, she DID raise property taxes — on businesses and rental property (thereby raising rents on those who can’t yet afford to buy) — by pushing the burden from those whiny people with houses on the lake to other categories of property tax. But this doesn’t make that point, at least not overtly.

There are two main problems with this ad. First, that it oversimplifies. Nikki is definitely guilty of voting for very bad ideas in the realm of taxation. She is one of the reasons why we so desperately need comprehensive tax reform, because she has so thoughtlessly participated in fouling up the system, making it less logical, less fair and less effective.

Second, this sidesteps the two things Nikki is most vulnerable about in order to go after her on taxes. This is no doubt based in an assumption (possibly backed by polling or focus groups, but I have no idea) that voters care more about taxes than about the fact that Nikki is such a hypocrite on her signature issues. It’s a risky move, trying to out-anti-tax a Republican in a general election. (Also, if you’re a Democrat, do you really want to call your opponent a “tax and spend…” anything?) But I guess they figure, what do they have to lose?

You’ll say that this calculation and oversimplification is just the way the game is played. Yep. And that’s a shame. Because there are very good reasons why no one should vote for Nikki Haley, and this ad only skirts them.

72 thoughts on “SC Democrats give sarcasm a try with new TV ad

  1. Doug Ross

    “by pushing the burden from those whiny people with houses on the lake to other categories of property tax. ”

    What government services should apartment renters get a break on so that others can pay their way?

    Can you please quantify the total dollar amount added to a typical two bedroom apartment’s monthly rent by these supposed tax increases? Let’s see how much of a burden you’re talking about.

    “I’m Vincent Sheheen. I am not Nikki Haley. You should vote for me for that reason. I have no real plans and take no positions on issues. I’m just a nice guy.”

  2. Doug Ross

    And all we keep hearing is that Sheheen is a consensus builder. If that’s his key trait, can someone please give us a list of five specific issues he was instrumental in forming a consensus on? Where he is clearly identified as the leader of the effort?

    One other point – the governor has no power to raise or cut taxes. Right? So any tax cuts would have to come from the Legislature and that’s not happening with the current bunch of career politicians.

  3. photoshopwatcher

    Interesting photoshop work at the 00:19 mark. NH’s picture is much darker than VS. Is that to point the eyes towards VS or to make NH look more ethnic to appeal to the Knott’s fan club?

  4. yarrrr

    photoshopwatcher, I’ve seen that picture of her somewhere but I can’t find the original looking on google image search… do you know where it is? I really doubt they did anything to it…

    What’s interesting is that it’s a very small ad buy… on fox news…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Doug– You don’t pay taxes proportionate to the services you receive. Do we have to discuss this again?

    Renters and other non-homeowner-occupied property, including businesses, not only pay a higher assessment ratio– 6% vs. 4%, but they pay the schools portion as well.Ironic, huh? I’d say homeowners are disproportionately more likely to use the schools, than say, a business.

  6. bud

    Let’s be clear about what these tea party Republicans like Haley REALLY stand for. They’re not opposed to all taxes as Brad has suggested. No. What they’re really opposed to is taxes that mainly affect the wealthy. If they can increase taxes on apartments and groceries so that the whiny rich on the lake can pay less for their exclusive property and expensive boat then they’re all for it. It’s too bad when we have a country where the people who benefit the most from the government (the wealthy) pay such a small share of the burden.

  7. Brad

    PSwatcher — I didn’t notice that, but I DID notice that the “man on the street” bits in the clip were poorly lit, sometimes badly backlit. That grabbed my attention. That white girl in the first one is practically invisible.

    Also, a couple of those people looked familiar. I was wondering whether I’d run into them at Democratic Party events…

  8. Doug Ross


    I’m looking for factual information as to how much of an additional burden has been placed on renters. If it’s $5 per month, it’s a non-issue. Users of services should pay their fair share.

    If Brad is going to use the supposed shift in taxes to renters as an issue against Haley, I would hope he would have some idea of what kind of dollars we are talking about.

    You’ll never convince me that there is anything fair or right in having two groups pay vastly different amounts for the same thing.

    You will also never convince me that NOT paying for something (like schools) gives you greater incentive to see them work efficiently. It’s my belief that we would have a much more effective government if everyone had a proportional stake in the game. Where is the incentive to make more if doing so causes the government to take more?

    So how much did this tax impact a renter?

  9. Doug Ross

    Here’s another data point we should know:

    Is there a difference between what a renter of a three bedroom apartment pays in property taxes than someone who lives in a two bedroom mobile home? If the renter pays less, why?

    Let’s see some facts.

  10. Brad

    Doug, here are the facts: Owner-occupied homes are assessed at 4 percent. They do not pay taxes at ALL for school operations (they do still pay for school bonds and local government operations). Rental property is taxed at 6 percent, and DOES pay for school operations. Given that traditionally school operations was about half of a typical tax bill, in VERY ROUGH terms, that could mean the owner of a $100,000 house paying $2,000, while the owner of rental property worth that would pay $6,000.

    That’s very rough, but should give you the broad idea.

    If those facts aren’t enough for you, go to one of those tax calculators that county tax assessors provide. I think Lexington County has one.

    Personally, I don’t need to look at specific numbers on a specific bill to know that the difference is significant, but then I’m not a numbers guy. Some people are — Anton Gunn is one. Spreadsheets mean more to him than a paragraph of text. But that’s not me.

  11. Doug Ross

    You forgot about millage rates. It’s not 4% and 6%. It’s 4% and 6% times the millage rate. A $100K home pays under $1000 in property taxes. I pay more than twice that for exactly the same services. Yeah, that’s fair.

    So let’s be clear – you want to see the property taxes raised on home owners and lowered for renters? Does that include rolling back the sales tax? Or do we need to keep that as well?

    More importantly, what is Vince Sheheen’s position on this? Does he want to see the property tax on homeowners increased? Or does he just want to play the political word games of “I want to see comprehensive tax reform” which means nothing if you aren’t in a position of power to do anything about it. He can’t say anything about this topic because he will lose every single Republican vote he needs to try and beat Haley.

  12. Doug Ross

    I can see the Haley TV commercial now:

    “Here’s your property tax bill this year: $1500”

    “Here’s what Vincent Sheheen wants your tax bill to be next year if he’s governor: $2500”

    “Thanks, Vince!”

  13. j

    It’s 4% or 6% times the assessed value (percentage of your property’s value that is subject to tax) times the millage rate to determine the tax amount. A rental unit or business pays 50% more than a primary home owner given the same FMV of a property. A utility or manufacturing entity (if they don’t have a fee in lieu of) pay at a 10.5% assessment ratio.

  14. bud

    Let’s count all the folks who would be better off with the low grocery tax in exchange for the higher property tax bill on owner occupied housing. Then lets count the folks who would be better off with the lower property tax bill and higher grocery tax. The first group would probably outnumber the later by 5 to 1. So how about an ad from the Sheheen camp pointing that out?

  15. David

    I pay more than twice that for exactly the same services. Yeah, that’s fair

    Doug, am I wrong that you are saying that you think property taxes are inherently unfair? And that everyone should pay the same dollar amount regardless of their living situation?

    Do you believe that all taxes — sales, income, etc — are unfair where they are not based solely on the value of services received from the government?

  16. David

    If it makes you feel any better, Doug, the amount of property tax on your home in 2008 was, comparatively by state, pretty low — SC was only 48th highest in the nation.

  17. Doug Ross


    Only property taxes. They make no sense whatsoever. I am fairly certain that every home in my neighborhood of 150+ residences pays a different property tax amount. That’s beyond stupid.

    The process of assessing home values and calculating property taxes is a huge waste of resources and completely unfair.

    In my fantasy world, property taxes would be paid as a monthly bill sent to each home. The bill would be the same for every owner occupied dwelling in the county.
    It would include a breakout for the various services received (just like a cable bill and just like the yearly tax bill shows).
    This would lead to a much cleaner process (no assessment, no millage, no loopholes). It would lead to a much more informed electorate. People would start expecting the services to be worth the cost which would lead to priorities being addressed and efficiencies to be implemented.

    As I’ve said there is no logical explanation for why a home with 3 bedrooms that sits next to a home with 4 bedrooms should pay less taxes especially when you consider the overhead of trying to calculate that tax. It’s one of the most wasteful processes in government.

  18. Doug Ross

    And let’s also keep the number of rental homes versus owner occupied homes in perspective.

    If the higher tax is only on 5% of the homes, then it’s not as big a deal.

    Still waiting to hear what the property tax component of a typical 2 bedroom apartment’s rent is.

  19. Doug Ross

    And the same applies to auto property taxes. There is no logical reason to say that car X which is worth $20,000 and is driven 12,000 miles per year should pay twice as much in taxes than car Y which is worth $5000 and driven 36,000 miles per year.

    Charge a flat fee per vehicle and get out of the business of assessing values. Or even better – raise the gas tax and eliminate the property tax completely. I’d be fine with that.

  20. Brad

    Doug, charging a higher tax on something worth more makes perfect sense to me, and I don’t know why it doesn’t to you.

    You may have a point that it’s expensive to do so — and perhaps we could save some money by eliminating assessment. But it seems to me like an awful idea, because your notion of fairness on this issue is pretty much the opposite of mine. (Also, your suggestion that the number of miles driven would make sense if we were talking about a tax dedicated to road maintenance, but we’re not. The tax devoted to that is the gas tax.)

    Bottom line, there is also a cognitive gap that prevents us from agreeing on some fundamental issues. For instance, after I’ve explained the difference in assessment between owner-occupied and rental property, you are still unsatisfied — and will remain so, since I don’t happen to have a tax bill for “a typical 2 bedroom apartment” on me. Wait, let me check my pockets — nope, don’t have it.

    Tell me something: When you refuse to acknowledge a clear, simple point that has been made, and make these demands for specifics that you know the other person is highly unlikely to be able to supply, do you actually think you’re making a reasonable request? Or is it just that your favorite mode of arguing is to refuse to be satisfied by anything other than something that you know no one is likely to be able to readily provide you with? Sometimes it seems that way.

    The difference in cognitive processes between us is a constant source of friction — friction which seems unnecessary to me, but apparently not to you.

  21. Karen McLeod

    A rich person can lower his/her property taxes easily enough. Sell their high value home, and buy a less expensive one. Also sell the high priced car, and buy a less expensive one. If these things are actually equal, then it’s an obvious solution.

  22. bud

    I like Dougs last suggestion about the gasoline tax. Raise it an additional 30-40 cents per gallon and eliminate the car tax. That way we could fund badly needed road projects and school needs. Typically the big, gas guzzlers are owned by the wealthy hence they would shoulder most of the cost.

  23. bud

    For real estate I’d have some sort of progressive system that would tax more expensive property at a greater percentage of value. A home worth 100k would be taxed at 2% gradually increasing to 10% for homes valued at 1 million or more. With the elimination of the car tax one could control their taxes by cutting back on driving and/or living in a smaller house. Both would have the effect of reducing our carbon footprint.

  24. Doug Ross


    I don’t “refuse to acknowledge a clear, simple point”. I refuse to accept a general opinion that is based highly on opinion and is offered without any evidence to support it. First, when you were asked to provide evidence, you gave inflated, incorrect numbers. You left out the millage. So if you don’t fully understand the clear and simple issue, why should I accept your opinion on it?

    Let’s face facts. You’re trying to craft a specific message about Nikki Haley by using the different rates for rental property versus owner occupied homes. You’re whole opinion appears to be based on two numbers: 4% and 6%. 4 < 6 so Nikki Haley is BAD! It's a weak argument…

    And you focus on "whiny people with houses on the lake" as if those are the only people who are unsatisfied with their property tax. You know as well as I do that there are plenty of homeowners who are unhappy with their taxes. Probably most of them voted for Sanford twice so that puts them in the majority.

    Please, let's not go back the Myers-Briggs excuse. It's a weak rationale for expressing opinion without have done any real research into the facts.

    Taxes are what they are not because of Nikki Haley. Let's not forget that. You just like to use her as a target these days when you know that whatever tax legislation comes out of the State House starts and ends with Harrell and Leatherman. You can at least admit that, right?

    Anyway, when is Vince going to make a statement on this? Can he go beyond the worthless "comprehensive tax reform" bullet point? Is he ready (or even able) to demonstrate what he wants to do specifically with taxes? He can't win unless he can talk about what he will do versus how he is not like Nikki Haley.

  25. Doug Ross

    Why is everyone so jealous of people who have more than they do? If they didn’t steal the money, what makes it right for you to take more of what they have earned?

    I don’t look at people who live on the lake and say, “That’s not fair! We should tax them more. It’s not fair to everyone who doesn’t work hard, didn’t get an education, blows their money instead of saving it.”

    It’s always about making the other guy pay what the person with less money thinks is “fair”. You don’t get bonus points in heaven for advocating taking money from someone to give to somebody else.

  26. Doug Ross

    “Doug, charging a higher tax on something worth more makes perfect sense to me, and I don’t know why it doesn’t to you.”

    Because it is not a one-time tax. It is a yearly fee to cover the cost of services provided to the homeowner. That’s what my property tax bill shows me: schools bonds, fire, police, parks, libraries, etc. I pay more than my neighbor FOR EXACTLY THE SAME THING based on a number that was invented by a bureacrat sitting in an office in Columbia. That number isn’t what I paid for the house. It isn’t what I could sell the house for.

    The system is beyond stupid and is a perfect example of how government “works”.

  27. tjc27

    Instead of assessment, why not use Zillow or Trulia. They post the estimated market values for nearly all homes already. Maybe not a perfect idea, but a starting point perhaps.

  28. Doug Ross


    Really? You would tax a $1 million dollar home $100,000 per year?

    Your idea would put the nail in the coffin of an already depressed housing market.

    If the idea is to encourage everybody to move into mobile homes, your plan would be a good start.

    Maybe we all could move into tiny little shacks, huddled around a sterno can.

  29. Doug Ross

    Here… I’ll give you some more factual information to help those who don’t just accept your opinions as simple and clear:

    Here’s the details on Act 388 (which you call execrable):

    Reps. Cotty, Harrell, Merrill, Walker, Ballentine, Limehouse, E.H. Pitts, Haley, Clark, Townsend, Altman, Anthony, Bailey, Bingham, Bowers, Cato, Ceips, Chellis, Clyburn, Coleman, Cooper, Dantzler, Davenport, Delleney, Duncan, Edge, Frye, Hagood, Harrison, Haskins, Herbkersman, Hinson, Leach, Littlejohn, Loftis, Mahaffey, Martin, Phillips, Pinson, M.A. Pitts, Rhoad, Sandifer, Scarborough, F.N. Smith, G.M. Smith, J.R. Smith, Thompson, Toole, Tripp, Umphlett, Vaughn, White, Whitmire, Young, Bales, Lucas, Kirsh, Huggins, Brady, Hamilton, McGee and Stewart

  30. Kathryn Fenner

    @ j–
    You left out the part about the schools portion, per “tax reform”–primary residences, owner-occupied don’t pay the operating portion, so it’s more like the rental property pays double.

    @Doug–I know I’ll never convince you, but for the rest of you out there in blogland, the richest neighborhoods have the best schools and the best police patrols. They benefit more from an orderly society–somebody’s got to keep the young and restless under control….and who said taxes correlate to use? They don’t. We all kick in, according to our abilities and how much we have been blessed/benefited by society. We take out as we need–because we are old, or very young, or very sick….

  31. Karen McLeod

    Bud, Unfortunately it’s the poorer segment of the population who drive the biggest gas guzzlers. They have to take what’s on the used car market that’s fairly cheap–and that’s a very old SUV, more likely than not.

  32. Brad

    Doug, you’re just immune to reason. I’m inclined to think it’s because you want to be. I was just trying to give you the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that maybe you can’t help it.

    The difference in the percentages, plus the fact that owner-occupied homes owe no tax for school operations, is MORE than enough information to support my assertions, which are NOT simply opinion. Since you are unsatisfied with that, I suggested you go use the calculators available on the Web to plug in hypotheticals to your heart’s content. I’m able to see the problem based on the facts I gave you.

  33. SusanG

    Didn’t we just have this whole discussion a few months ago? Maybe we can just link to that one and save ourselves the re-hash 😉 But I’m too lazy to go find the post myself….

  34. Bart

    What the hell. Why don’t we just let our employers send our paycheck to the government, local, state, and federal and let them decide how much we need to live on and return it to us in the form of vouchers, food stamps, fuel coupons, bus passes, and other forms of credit cards to be used as they deem appropriate.

    Set up a commission to review salaries and never let anyone earn more than their fair share and if they somehow manage to earn more than approved, off with their heads. Set strict salary ranges for every job description and never allow anyone to move out of their bracket without approval by a review board.

    However, everyone MUST work, no one allowed to sit home unless they have been given approval due to health issues or domestic classification. A job for every person in the country. Everyone must complete high school, then a a trade school or college, depending upon the needs of the people. A commission will decide what profession, trade, or skill is needed for the good of the country and assign each person accordingly.

    No more bitching about who is paying their fair share or not, no more bitching about the rich having too much or the poor not having enough. No allowing for ambition, hard work, entrepreneurship, striving for excellence, or anything that might make anyone else envious or not feel good about themselves. Finally destroying the human spirit by depriving it of any freedom to grow and develop. Everyone totally equal in every aspect. No exceptions.

    Eliminate all taxes on any goods purchased and let the government decide if you should even own a home or not. Heck, the government could set the purchase or rental rate, making everyone equal.

    Wait a minute! Didn’t they try that in Russia? As Emily Litella on Saturday Night Live would say – “Never mind”.

  35. Kathryn Fenner

    Ah, but Karen–I see plenty of rich folks driving shiny new SUVs and high performance Euro-cars. In Canada, where I just spent three weeks, and gas is $1 a liter (more than $4 per gallon, for you metrically challenged folk), there are mostly small sedans and a handful of minivans, despite the legitimate need for four-wheel drive that few of us have.

    The world needs more Canada.

  36. j

    Kathryn, you’re right. I was countering
    Doug’s misrepresentation on how real property tax is calculated. I also did not mention the homestead exemption and how it benefits seniors no matter what their income or home value. Senior renters, however, don’t receive it!

    If one wants to talk about “whiny people with houses on the lake,” they are the recipients of repubs largess by limiting the escalation of their assessed value to 15% between reassessment periods. These whiny lake home owners and others in high demand market areas enjoy this significant real property tax advantage. This was accomplished in a statewide referendum that was worded in such a way that it was difficult to understand the real impact. Most all with whom I talked, thought that it applied to the average home owner. All the rest of us home owners subsidize this significant tax advantage for the whiners.

    Millage rates are set by local governments and are subject to public input hopefully, but is limited to CPI plus growth by state code.

    What can we say? The rich get richer and those with money buy their representation and consultants. With some 1 in 5 being functionally illiterate, no wonder we’re in such a condition. We’ll never really fund education properly as we’ve got to have school vouchers! Give us a break, Nikki.

  37. j

    I’m not ungrateful or a whiner as I do appreciate limiting the SC sales tax on my new Mercedes to $300. Otherwise, I’d have to pay a few thousand dollars. This is what Doug would call a fair tax! I wonder if I could pay that $300 pro-rated monthly over the proposed life of the vehicle?

  38. Brad

    Bart, too, is giving sarcasm a try.

    Personally, I agree with Susan that the subject bores me. Taxes, spending, yadda-yadda — none of that has ever interested me. One of the earliest, hardest lessons I had to learn in the newspaper bidness after I got out of college back in the 70s was that lots of readers DID care, and I had to inform them accordingly. Me, I’d rather talk about throw-weights and such. Or almost anything besides taxes and budgets. Sports, even.

    And Kathryn — aside from their health care system, which I’m all for, you and Bob and Doug McKenzie can have Canada. I’m told it gets quite cold up there. And I’m not curious enough to go there and find out.

  39. Doug Ross

    The devil’s in the details, Brad.

    You can remain above the fray because it hurts your brain too much to think about how complex and ridiculous our tax system is. The majority of the rest of us can see what a farce the system is.

    You can also ignore facts that show that the “burden” on rental property is a small percentage of the total property tax and try to blow that out of proportion as a way to attack Haley.

    You can also continue to pretend this is about Nikki Haley when you know its more about Bobby Harrell and Hugh Leatherman.

    As a long time reader of this blog, I am comfortable with my assessment that your opinion of taxes can be summed up in one word: “More”

  40. j

    I’m not interested in “Taxes, spending, yadda-yadda” nor sports, but without the knowledge of the details of what happened and is happening, we get a county where our economy has gone to hell and wealth and power is skewed in favor of the top 2%. There’s a bleak future without education and work opportunities. Where is W when we need him?

  41. Brad

    Again, we see the cognitive disconnect. My attitude toward taxes is neither “more” nor “less.” I am utterly lacking in an ideological position on the subject. I look at each taxing or spending decision without any prejudice one way or the other.

    And you, and millions of others who actually DO have a prejudice — in that you always want them to be lower — have trouble taking in my utter indifference on the subject. So you assume that my position is the OPPOSITE of yours, and since you are always for “less,” that means I am always for “more.”

    Except that I’m not. Sometimes the right answer will be less, sometimes more, sometimes just the same — if you look at it without a predilection.

    As for your assertion that it hurts my brain “to think about how complex and ridiculous our tax system is,” that is patently unfair. I have done FAR more over the years to push for comprehensive tax reform over the years, because I am fully conscious of how badly needed it is — and how unconscionable further screwing-up of the system, such as Act 388, is.

    If you defend Nikki and Act 388, obviously YOU are the one who can’t get his head around “how complex and ridiculous our tax system is.”

    Finally, where do you get off asserting that I “ignore facts that show that the ‘burden’ on rental property is a small percentage of the total property tax?” WHAT facts? You’re the one who airily dismisses every fact presented, while you have presented NOTHING to support that assertion.

    This is really getting tiresome, Doug.

  42. j

    Brad, We need a blog participant meet-up! It’d be less keyboard intensive and much more entertaining and hopefully enlightening! We may need the politically correct police for some. I don’t lie!

  43. Kathryn Fenner

    @Brad–The three weeks we spent at the University of Waterloo, with its burgeoning, state-incentivized research and technology park, just across the tracks from the enormous RIM (the BlackBerry people) buildings–the fruit of government support, too, convinced me the Canadians appreciate the value of money spent on education, especially technology education.

    The people are just as nice and friendly as we are, too, and the summer is not hell on wheels!

  44. SusanG

    Actually, it’s not that I find the topic boring — just this discussion of it. If we are actually discussing new frameworks for fair taxation, that’s interesting. If we’re pretending to discuss it, but really are just picking our logic based on whether it results in lower taxes for me, that’s boring.

    I was interested in what logic a person like Doug, who is trying to make the argument that property taxes aren’t fair, and should be a flat fee because more house doesn’t equal more service, would apply to other taxes. The last time we had this dicussion, I asked him how he would apply this sort of “fee for service” logic to other types of taxes, such as income and sales tax, or if that’s not the logic he uses in those cases, what does he use and why?

    At the time, he said he favored a flat tax RATE on income and I pointed out that this doesn’t seem consistent to me with the property tax logic — that’s a flat rate, too — the issue was that he wanted a flat amount, regardless of the property value.

    Here’s what I said last time:


    “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?”

    (Here’s the link to the previous discussion:

    Doug, I’m still interested in your answers to the questions about other types of taxes and whether you consider those cases different from property taxes and if so, why. I’m asking because I just don’t see how this fee-for-service logic really works across the board.

  45. Doug Ross


    If you’ll just indulge me one more question please:

    “Who is more responsible for the passage of Act 388 – Nikki Haley, Mark Sanford, or Bobby Harrell?”

  46. scout

    Alright, I went to the Lexington county tax estimator. On a 100,000 house in the town of West Columbia in school district 2, a resident pays 517.34 total and is exempted from 595.40 dollars of tax for school operations. A nonresident pays 1774.32 total, of which 861 is for school operations. That is a difference of 1256.98 between resident and non-resident taxes, which is roughly $105 per month. So I would surmise that non-resident property tax contributes at least $105 to monthly rent on a 100,000 dollar house in West Columbia. I’m not sure what if anything that proves though. I don’t know how to tell what portion of that difference is due to increases on non-resident taxes as a result of Act 388. Sorry Doug, but the estimator didn’t have apartment buildings as an option so far as I could tell, so I don’t know the answer to your burning desire to know about the property tax burden there.

    I’m a bit confused though. Did Act 388 raise the property tax on non-residents, as well as, lower tax on residents – or did it just lower tax on residents? I tried to read through the bill but my eyes glazed over and I fell asleep. There are times I might could get through it, but this week is not one of them. Too tired.

    Doug, does it matter who is more responsible for Act 388 out of Nikki Haley, Mark Sanford, or Bobby Harrell? Only one of them is running for Governor, and she supported it. I don’t know a lot about fiscal matters but I know enough to see that this didn’t work out so well, and apparently other people foresaw the debacle this Act would cause and recommended against it. Haley, the supposed fiscal wizard, wasn’t one of them, yet she wants to be our Governor on that basis. I’m not impressed. If Sanford or Harrell were running, they’d be held accountable for their support of the bill, as well. But they’re not. It’s Haley.

  47. Brad

    Scout, it lowered the taxes on owner-occupied — eliminating their tax for school operations altogether.

    What that means is that the taxing entity then has to raise more from the other categories — business, rental property and the like — in order to operate the schools.

    So basically it effectively, not directly, raised taxes on those taxpayers while cutting them for the homeowners. A fairly obvious and predictable outcome, but the people who voted for 388 didn’t care.

    As for who’s to blame — anyone who voted for it. I guess Bobby voted for it; I’d have to look it up to be sure. I know Nikki voted for it. And as you put it so aptly, we only care at this point what she (and Vincent) did. What Harrell or Sanford did or didn’t do with relationship to the act has nothing to do with this discussion.

  48. j

    scout, Great post! Brad, thanks for summary response on 388. It definitely effects rental units whose owners look to Net Operating Income and their return on investment if the market allows.

  49. bud

    Doug finally said something I agree with. Without a doubt Brad is in favor of higher taxes. As a long time reader of this blog there is absolutely not one bit of doubt about that.

    As for me, I have no problem soaking the rich. They clearly benefit the most from government.

  50. Barry

    There is no difference in Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley. Their approach is the same. Nikki is doing a real tap dance now (specifically by avoding the issue of private school vouchers as she did yesterday) even though she was ready to talk about it in the primary.

    All this discussion about taxes is really meaningless. Nikki isn’t going to work with the General Assembly – even on things they might agree on. As I said, she’s like Mark Sanford. Compromise and cooperation are dirty words to both of them. Mark didn’t get anything done. Nikki won’t either.

  51. Doug Ross


    The bill never would have seen the light of day if Harrell didn’t want it to. You know that. I posted the names of all the sponsors. Do you view them all with the same level of distaste as Haley?

  52. Doug Ross


    I would gladly favor a system that allowed everyone to pay the same taxes. That’s not possible.

    In the absence of that, I would favor changes to the entire system that make collection of taxes simple and efficient. A flat income tax with no deductions for anything and maybe two levels (but nobody escaping the lowest level).
    A sales tax with no exceptions. And a property tax with equal contributions from all residents.
    There shouldn’t be any need to file tax forms, hire tax lawyers and accountants, or deal with audits, liens, etc. The cost of collecting taxes is obscene in this country. The most messed up system is the property tax, followed by income tax, and then sales tax. The way property taxes are assessed and collected could only come from a government entity.

    There is a big difference in my mind between what you earn, what you spend, and what you own. Each one can (and is) treated differently by the government.
    Once I own something, I shouldn’t be at the whim of politicians to determine how much I should pay to keep it.

    Explain to me how states like New Hampshire can thrive without a sales OR income tax? or Texas can have a booming economy with an income tax? The main reason? Much smaller government. Much less government control. That’s all it takes.

  53. Brad

    Doug said “Do you view them all with the same level of distaste as Haley?”

    Are they running for governor? If so, you betcha. If not, I’m not terribly interested in them in the context of this discussion.

    If they are running for re-election and have opposition, I would have to spend some time studying them and their opposition to decide what I think about their candidacies.

    In the governor’s race, I know both of the candidates quite well. And their respective views of Act 388 provide one very good example of why one is suitable for the office, and the other is not.

  54. Brad

    … all of which should be patently obvious from the context of this discussion thus far, but Doug keeps changing the subject. He reminds me of Nikki’s campaign, which inexplicably does not want to talk about anything having to do with our choice of governor, and only wants to talk about such inside the beltway (or, even more irrelevant, inside Arizona) things as national health care and immigration.

  55. Doug Ross


    At least she’s talking about something. Sheheen is making Jim Hodges look like a fireball in comparison.

    All platitudes and “vision-thing” and Kumbaya lyrics from Sheheen. Wants to pay teachers more (don’t we all?) but refuses to say how he’d do that.

    They should be debating every week from now til November. Let’s get them on the record instead of using campaign spokesmen to deliver worthless pap.

    And let’s never forget – whoever sits in the Governor’s office has very little (if any) power to control what happens in the state. It’s a figurehead position. If it wasn’t, we’d truly be able to see if the Sanford model works or not. We have the Harrell-Leatherman form of government.

  56. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug Ross–I wouldn’t say New Hampshire is “thriving” — we drove across VT and NH on our way to ME this summer, and NH has terrible roads and is generally more depressed looking. They have a killer property tax, is how. I believe they also soak tourists tax wise.

    I’d rather live in a state like VT or ME that has services; you wouldn’t. To each his own.

  57. SusanG

    Thanks, Doug.

    I also think that a flat across-the-board tax is probably not possible. (This is why I was interested in how you thought that would work).

    And I agree that the simplest system possible that still meets our needs as a community is best — nobody likes all those forms and I certainly hate having to have an accountant.

    I also agree there’s a difference between owning, earning and spending, and thus it might be reasonable to tax them differently.

    But your original argument was that you shouldn’t have to pay more in taxes than the next guy because you didn’t use more services, and that’s not what you addressed in your post.

    It’s interesting that you said:
    “Once I own something, I shouldn’t be at the whim of politicians to determine how much I should pay to keep it.”

    This doesn’t support the fee-for-services argument — this is an argument that you shouldn’t pay property taxes at all, since even under a fee-for-service model politicians would decide how much you pay — you just would pay the same as everyone else.

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I personally think that we should take the “fee for services” argument off the table. It keeps coming up and we keep going back and forth on it, but it doesn’t seem to be the real issue. I think maybe you just think your taxes are too high in general and the government wastes money. Which is fine — but the “fee for service” thing is just a red herring.

    Also, as far as NH goes, I believe we addressed that one in the post I linked to above, but to restate — they rely on high property taxes. (They also have, in effect, sales taxes on hotels, rental cars and restaurants of 9%).

  58. Steve Gordy

    I fear the soul of He Who Must Not Be Named has taken possession of Doug’s faculties of reasoning. The style of argumentation is strikingly similar.

  59. David

    Explain to me how states like New Hampshire can thrive without a sales OR income tax? or Texas can have a booming economy with an income tax? The main reason? Much smaller government. Much less government control. That’s all it takes.

    As someone who believes smaller government is in general a good thing, I find this kind of reasoning so frustrating — the idea that “that’s all it takes”. There is so much more to good government and the success of a state than the size of government. How about a well trained work force? I would bet that that is more important than smaller government — and at the least a significant factor — when it comes to the success of our state’s economy. In other words, it takes much more than just smaller government. And that should go without saying since SC has relatively low taxes already without the relative success.

    And today’s politicians — seemingly the whole Republican party — and conservative entertainers who push the idea on conservatives that an increase in government must always be bad and a decrease in government must always be good and that’s all we need to worry about are doing the country no favor. And it drives me crazy.

  60. Doug Ross


    >This doesn’t support the fee-for-
    >services argument — this is an
    >argument that you shouldn’t pay
    >property taxes at all, since even >under a fee-for-service model >politicians would decide how much >you pay — you just would pay the >same as everyone else.

    Let me make it clear again – I have never said I shouldn’t pay property taxes. I have said I pay too much for the same services as others receive. I want to pay my fair share. If the government can raise my taxes beyond what is affordable (more likely in the current system than a shared cost system) then I continue to believe that it can be a factor as to whether I can keep my home or not. My taxes due to school bonds went up over $700 last year. Why should I pay a larger share of the cost of a new football stadium for the high school than others do?

    I drove past an area in Blythewood last night that strengthened my position. There’s a home that is probably the most expensive home in the town. Worth $2 million a few years ago. Across the street is a single story home of about 600 square feet. Two homes – same street – same services from the county: yearly bill? Probably $15,000 versus $500. I don’t get it. Both homes should get a bill for about $1000-$1200 a year.

  61. Doug Ross

    And consider my neighborhood homeowners association. 150 homes. We all pay the same yearly fee. We don’t pay based on home value. They take the expenses, divide it by the number of homes, and send out a bill. Why? Because it makes sense to do it that way.

    Would you have a problem with a homeowners association that assigned cost based on the value of the home as determined by the head of the association? That’s what we have with property taxes. A dumb, unfair system.

  62. Kathryn Fenner

    @Doug– The “head of the association” doesn’t arbitrarily determine the value of the home. There are objective standards that assessors use, and there is an appeals process. The assessors do not levy the taxes–they simply determine the assessable value.

  63. Barry

    Burl Burlingame says: Yeah, my kids have already graduated! Why should I pay taxes so that other kids can get a public education?

    I trust this is a joke and not a real question

    because unless you never leave your home, the answer should be pretty obvious.

  64. Doug Ross


    Do you know how many millions of tax dollars are spent in order to do the assessments? Do you believe the assessments represent the value that a home can sell for today (I know mine is at least 10% too high)? Have you ever tried to apppeal (I have)?

    All the money spent on property tax assessment could be spent on far more important items like homelessness, hunger, job training, etc. The property tax system is inefficient, unproductive, and unfair.

  65. Doug Ross

    Here’s how I would do it:

    Figure out the budget for the county.

    Determine what percentage of the budget should come from residents (treat everyone the same whether they own a home, rent a home, or rent an apartment).

    Multiply that percentage by the budget and divide by the number of homes to get a per home cost.

    Utilize the same systems that currently are in place to deliver water bills to include a “resident use fee”. Collect it each month along with the water bill.

    Imagine a system where every resident could be fully aware of how much they were paying for the services they receive. They might start taking a lot more interest in who is in charge and how the money is spent.


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