Again, taxes are very low in South Carolina

One of the great things about my longtime colleague Cindi Scoppe still working at The State is that she is still employed doing what she’s best at. Another is that readers of the paper have the benefit of her knowledge and considerable talents.

A downside, for her, is the monotony of having to explain things over and over and over again, only to see the political majority in the state never, ever get it.

Such as the fact that South Carolina is a very low-tax state, meaning that cutting taxes should not exactly be seen as priority one for those making laws for the state. It doesn’t cry out as a need, to a rational person, the way, say, economic development does.

She did so again today, very gently showing her weariness in her headline, “The truth about S.C. taxes, again.” If you are among those who still don’t get it, or are merely confused, please go read it. Here’s an excerpt:

The latest report, from the anti-tax Tax Foundation in Washington, shows that state spending in South Carolina grew by just 16.8 percent from 2001 through 2011. That’s an average of 1.68 percent per year, which is substantially below either the rate of population growth or the rate of inflation, let alone the two combined, which is the conservative gold-standard for the maximum amount spending should increase. Only West Virginia and Alaska had smaller increases.

127 thoughts on “Again, taxes are very low in South Carolina

  1. Doug Ross

    So whose taxes do you want to raise and by how much? Give us a number. My taxes are high enough, thank you. I’m one of those lucky people who gets to write a very large check to the state of South Carolina every quarter rather than see it taken out in smaller chunks. It makes a difference when you see the number every three months. Once it reaches a total approaching five digits, you start thinking you’ve done more than your share to support an inefficient government that blows a ton of money on wasteful spending. Why give it more when it can’t do the right thing with what it has? Show me some fiscal discipline and attention to core functions of government and then we can talk about taking more of my money.

    I’d like to hear Vincent Sheheen come out in favor of higher taxes. Can he lead on that topic? No way… he’ll run from that in a heartbeat.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      … which we have because property owners didn’t want to pay their already very low residential taxes…

      You can find individual taxes that are out of line, such as personal property taxes.

      But the overall burden is low, because we do government on the cheap in South Carolina. And we get the government that we pay for.

      1. Silence

        At least with property taxes I could deduct it from my federal income taxes. I don’t really get that benefit from our outrageous sales tax. We need less (expensive) government here, and a tax system without so many special interest loopholes. A system that spreads the burden around a bit more equally.

  2. Doug Ross

    They just opened a $140 million dollar high school in Lexington with multiple gyms, amphitheater, etc. There was a similar one opened in Blythewood last year. Nevermind that the SAT scores and the graduation rates in the Blythewood high school will be the worst in the district… at least they’ll have the nicest facilities.

    This is a perfect example of why many of us who pay the majority of South Carolina’s taxes don’t want to give any more. You don’t give a drug addict a debit card.

    1. Silence

      I complained last year to my local school board representative about the wrought iron & brick fence that they built around LRHS. It cost in the neighborhood of 100k, and replaced a perfectly good (though aged) chain link fence. He defended the fence construction saying it was similar to the fences constructed at other high schools in the district, which means that District One built over a million dollars worth of fences. He also defended the expenditure by pointing out that it was “bond money” and therefore had to be spent on facilities. I pointed out that it didn’t “have to” be spent at all, and that taxpayers might have been better served by a more thoughtful and frugal expenditure of scarce resources.

      Basically, we have top notch, fancy buildings which churn out dropouts and mediocre students.

      1. Doug Ross

        Exactly. Richland 2 has raised half a billion dollars for school construction since I have lived in Columbia. They put fences around every school for “security” purposes yet anyone who wanted to get in could do so easily. I wonder who has the contract for all those fences? It has to run into the millions of dollars.

        1. Bart

          Has anyone on this blog been inside the new River Bluff High School building. It has glass and stainless steel railings through-out the classroom wings, stainless steel cable railings in some areas, and single line stainless steel in others. Now, stainless may be great looking but the cost of stainless vs. painted carbon is much higher and not as practical. There are other amenities to the new school that simply go beyond anything reasonable. The entrance is a semi-circle with brick columns and arches when other materials could have been used that were less expensive but would last as long and just as maintenance free.

          And it seems as if China’s reach into the economy of America is evident in Columbia. China Construction was the general contractor for the new River Bluff High School. The name China reflects the origin and home base for the company. Just saying.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        I was riding past Lower Richland yesterday, and noticed that a road that runs next to it is called “Rabbit Run.” Why, I wondered, is it named for a John Updike novel, only without the comma? 🙂

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Nobody wants to talk about Harry?

            How about Angstrom, the lab rabbit from “Lost?” I appreciated that way more than the heavy-handed bit of naming characters “John Locke” and “Rousseau” and “Edmund Burke.”

            At least, I got the point of naming the rabbit that. I didn’t understand the John Locke reference. Of course, I don’t think of Locke the way most people do. To me, he’s the guy who started SC on the path to legislature-dominated government.

            See how everything comes back to that?

            Maybe I should write a “Lost”-inspired post in which all of us on the “island” of SC are caught in a dual existence. In the other universe, Joe Riley DID run for governor in 1998, and everything is much better today as a result…

  3. Silence

    I think that’s a load of B.S. Total “malarky” as Joe Biden might say.
    At 6% or 9% including local tax SC has a very high sales tax.
    SC’s 7% top personal income tax rate is also one of the highest in the country. It’s the second highest in the Southeast.
    Our real property tax burden is fairly low, but notice that Richland County is the regional leader:
    We are also saddled with taxes on personal property.
    I don’t believe any “rankings” that say our overall tax burden is low. It just doesn’t add up.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Silence, you remind me of my former publisher, Fred Mott.

      He and I had a great working relationship, and I respect him greatly, but we had endless arguments about taxes in SC. He was SURE that they were terribly high, largely because he had come here from Florida, where there was no state income tax, and (I think) no taxes on personal property.

      Then, he left here to take a top job at the papers in Philadelphia. Shortly after he moved there, I had occasion to chat with him on the phone. His first words: “I will never again complain about taxes in South Carolina.” He had moved to a place that actually had high taxes, including (and this rankled him most of all) a tax that was levied on him for WORKING in Philadelphia while living in the suburbs.

      That conversation was gratifying to me on a certain level, but I tried not to gloat. I knew Fred was suffering, by his own standards, anyway…

      1. Doug Ross

        And yet Philly schools had to borrow $50 million dollars to open this year and some schools were asking parents to chip in $600 per student to fund other services within the schools. High taxes don’t guarantee anything but high spending.

        1. Silence

          I think what you have just pointed out is the salient issue here, Doug. If we are always going to overspend, why not do it for less money?

  4. Juan Caruso

    “… South Carolina is a very low-tax state, meaning that cutting taxes should not exactly be seen as priority one for those making laws for the state. It doesn’t cry out as a need, to a rational person, the way, say, economic development does.” – B.W.

    Competition for industry (economic development) may cry out as a need, however. Take Washington State, for instance, home of Bill Gates ( consistently ranked in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people) and Microsoft Corporation. Like all other Washington State residences and businesses, Gates and Microsoft pay no income taxes to the state of Washington.

    Washington state has only two (2) industries that contribute double digit revenues to state GDP. The government is the largest industry (47%), and the Information industry (32%) is the other.

    From what taxes does Washington state receive revenues then? Property taxes account for 62% of state revenues and sales and gross receipts taxes another 33%. — Imagine the day SC develops offshore drilling to collect its own natural resources.

    Washington state is doing so well demonstrators are, as I write, campaigning for a $15 minimum wage,
    to boost what is already has the nation’s highest state minimum wage ( $9.19).

    The trouble with liberal schemers is their hesitancy to support their utopian programs with sustainable mathematics, unlike their ill-conceived drive for sustainable energy.

    Ms Scoppe has yet to write an article that omits “tax is below the national average”. Any high schooler used to know that if the principle of conforming to a national average were fiscally sound, the national average would rise continually to the delight of the unthinking.

    1. Doug Ross


      “Any high schooler used to know that if the principle of conforming to a national average were fiscally sound, the national average would rise continually to the delight of the unthinking.”

      Exactly. Using a simple statistic like average tax burden is a poor form of analysis. What would happen if five of the states ahead of South Carolina cut their taxes below ours? Would Cindi be happy with that? No. She wants our taxes to be raised to match the average.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Doug’s doing it again — demanding to know which taxes I want increased. I don’t recall mentioning increasing any taxes. All I said was that it’s dumb to keep acting like we have some burning need to REDUCE taxes in this state….

  6. Doug Ross

    Ok. If you are fine with the tax revenues as is, I apologize. The gist of Cindi’s piece was that taxes are low and that as a result services suffer. It would be easy to assume that she (and you) would want to see services improved AND taxes raised to do that.

    It’s about value for the dollar. I’ll pay more for better performance.

    1. Mark Stewart

      I thought it was incredibly stupid that my property taxes were cut by 2/3rds under 388.

      Schools should be somewhat nice; better to demonstrate a commitment to education than to stuff kids in rickety portables.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      You say you’ll pay more for better “performance” but I doubt anyone would ever be able to demonstrate better performance to your satisfaction.

      1. Doug Ross

        Why? I think our library system works well. I’d have no problem with a large increase for them. Same for the parks department. I’d gladly shift a lot of the excessive spending on bricks and mortar for schools to teacher salaries.

        I value people who do their jobs well. Always have.

        1. Barry

          I agree but most coaches that make that much money are also athletic directors- and football coaches are fired all the time-even on the high school level.

          There is one from the midlands that was fired last year and he’s an assistant now- probably making less than half of what he was before.

          But yes- I think the head coach/AD salary is ludicrous.

        2. Silence

          Phil – I agree with you that the salaries for athletics, and the spending for athletic facilities as well, is out of hand! Most of the highest paid employees at any district (other than superintendent-types) are coaches. Lots of schools also have athletic directors (also highly compensated, usually ex football coaches).
          Of course people come out to watch football. Nobody comes to cheer on math class…

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          But before you do, let me say that you don’t always want “coach” supervising a classroom.

          When I was in the 9th grade in Bennettsville, the basketball coach was my homeroom “teacher.” Here’s how he kept order among the boys in the class (I don’t know whether there was any disciplinary system for the girls):

          If you talked during homeroom on Monday, when you got to P.E. (and all of us took P.E.), you got one lick from his truly wicked, heavy, specially-made paddle, which as I recall was constructed from a two-by-four.

          If you talked on Tuesday, you got two licks.

          The pattern continued, according to a logic that I suppose was dictated by his increasing impatience and disgust with us as the week wore on.

          Once, I was convicted of talking on a Friday.

          As he prepared to administer punishment in the locker room, after I had “dressed out” in P.E. shorts and T-shirt, all the other boys were ordered out of the room. (Apparently, he didn’t hold with the old Royal Navy concept of mustering “all hands to witness punishment.” I figure he didn’t want witnesses.) But one, Raymond, peeked around a corner, his eyes bulging out, and reported the proceedings to the other boys.

          The first lick caused more pain than I had thought was possible. I had no idea there were so many nerves back there — all uninsulated in my case, because I had such a skinny posterior.

          The second one convinced me absolutely that I would not survive five.

          Somehow, I did.

          The other boys allowed as how coach had probably not swung as hard on me, because I was so scrawny, and he wouldn’t have wanted to be responsible for killing me, what with the extra paperwork and all. I begged to differ.

          Of course, I was much the topic of general conversation that day, being The Boy Who Took Five Licks and Lived…

        4. Doug Ross

          I wonder if that experience helped mold your strong opinions on following rules and community standards. Fear of punishment is a great motivator for compliance.

        5. Brad Warthen Post author

          It molded my strong views against talking on Friday.

          Seriously, I don’t think it molded anything. I just look back on it as part of growing up.

          I seem to remember my mother being angry at the coach about it. But I don’t know how she knew about the licks, if she did. It’s not the sort of thing I would have told parents about. Maybe there was some other punishment, such as detention, that made her aware of the incident. I seem to recall her having to come get me after school, and her expressing her opinion about the coach as we were driving away… Normally, I rode home with my grandmother, who managed the school cafeteria…

          Probably the only way it fit into my worldview was that I accepted the coach’s right to do that. I mean, you know, he was the coach. And in the culture of young males, at least in those days, a coach was like the captain of a ship back in the days of sail (no sailor wanted to receive a dozen lashes at the capstan, but no sailor questioned the captain’s right to order them, or the bosun mate’s duty to administer the lashes as hard as he could swing the cat). He could make you do wind sprints until you felt like your lungs were on fire, and inflict other forms of physical suffering, so why couldn’t he administer physical punishment if you broke the rules?

        6. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m not saying, now as an adult, that the coach was right. I’m saying that at the time, at the age of 13 or 14, I would have accepted that that was the way things were.

              1. Silence

                How about $48? Do I hear $48? Going once, going twice….
                If a little is good, more must be better.

        7. Silence

          @ Caskey – Yup, the tax-free equivalent of earning $21/hour. That’s more than a lot of my hard-working and well-educated friends earn.

    3. bud

      The gasoline tax should be much higher to pay for much needed road improvements. I’d lower the ridiculous car tax. The bill I just got for my tiny, used car was a big shock.

      I’ll agree with Doug on one thing we do waste a ton of money in this state. Why on earth we gave the super rich Boeing Corp. a huge subsidy to expand their plant is a mystery. Also, why did our utility regulators allow SCANA to raise rates in order to build a useless nuclear plant while natural gas is so cheap and wind power going to waste off the coast? Ultimately the stock holders of SCANA benefit at the expense of folks of modest means who only want a bit of AC. Indeed our government can waste money on welfare for the rich.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, we would have some higher taxes — and some lower taxes, although the aggregate might be a little higher — if I had my druthers. But I’d be happy just to START by everyone acknowledging that CUTTING taxes is not a crying need in this state, and try to get fundamental state services on a sound footing.

    For instance — we should raise the gas tax to address road maintenance needs. We’re badly overdue to do that. And what we should NOT do is rob from the general fund for that purpose, as though other functions of government were overfunded or something, which they certainly are not. We should man up and do the unpopular thing and raise the gas tax.

    1. Doug Ross

      And let’s not ignore the fact that when taxes have been cut, fees have been raised in other areas. That’s how this government works – pretend to cut taxes but keep the same or more money rolling in.

      I’m fine with raising the gas tax if it goes only to roads.

      1. Silence

        Doug – Richland County just increased the sales tax (Yet Another Penny) and about 50+% of it is going to roads.
        You will also no doubt note the county has a new plan to pave miles and miles of less-used rural dirt roads on the cheap. This will no doubt bite us squarely in the ass when these roads require extra maintenance since we aren’t building them properly.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, correct me if I’m wrong, but are paved roads more high-maintenance than dirt roads? I don’t think they are, but as I say, I’m not an expert on that…

          1. Silence

            Dirt roads get a grader run over them 1x/year typically, if that. It doesn’t cost much to do, and the county has full-time employees who run motor-graders.

            A fully designed a constructed paved road has several courses – a surface course, a base course, a road base, a sub-base, a capping layer and a compacted subgrade. What the county council wants to do is to build chipseal roads, where they basically put asphalt (surface course) right down over the dirt road without any of the underlying courses. It’ll be cheaper to do in the short run, and allow the county to pave a lot of mileage cheaply. They are justifying this because these roads won’t be supporting a whole lot of traffic.

            Once these roads are all paved, the property along said roads will be much more desirable, and therefore the roads will see increased traffic. I’ll bet none of them get 1/4 of their projected lifespan without significant upgrades or maintenance. In the long run we will have traded cheap roads now for expensive road maintenance bills. These roads will require contractors to construct and maintain, and be significantly more expensive than one guy on a grader.

      2. Barry

        Taxes have been cut on the state level- and in many cases for essential services for towns- forcing them to raise fees or taxes on the local level.

        Bobby Harrell knows that’s how it works- but he can say ” I didn’t raise any tax” – yet he forced towns to do it. He counts on most SC residents not having enough intelligence to put those two things together.

    2. Doug Ross

      “We should man up and do the unpopular thing and raise the gas tax.”

      Can you get Vincent Sheheen to buy into that? If so, by how much? Let’s see him act like a Governor and provide some leadership.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        That would be great if Vincent would go for that. But you know, increasing the gas tax is just as unpopular with Democrats as with Republicans — for different reasons.

        As you’ll recall, as much as I liked both of them, got on both McCain and Obama for pandering to people’s yearning for cheap gas, etc….

        You generally find the idea of increasing gas taxes among people who don’t run for office…

        1. Doug Ross

          So why not call for a tax on air then? If it’s unattainable, give up. If there is no political leader willing to do the tough things, all this talk is just that – talk.

          1. CJ Watson

            One of my professors always said that the fairest tax was the poll tax. Everyone that votes pays the tax. You don’t pay the tax, you have no vote.

    3. Silence

      OK Brad. Let’s raise the gas tax- say double it for 20 years. In exchange, we should get a 20 year moratorium on new road construction. If we can’t afford to maintain what we’ve got, what business do we have building more. I’d take that deal, if offered. Unfortunately most of the new taxes would simply be used to construct additional roads…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I think I’d be for that — as long as new-road projects that are currently in the pipeline get done. I mean ones where there has been a promise to the taxpayers, as with the Richland situation. You have to build those, even though personally I’d rather have seen the whole penny go to mass transit.

      2. Doug Ross

        Why twenty years? If they double the tax, surely they’d be able to make significant progress in 5. Oh yeah, what am I thinking?

      3. bud

        I’m not an engineer Silence but I think you basically have it about right. Problem with dirt roads is they damage vehicles which is sort of an indirect tax. I doubt the travel on existing dirt roads is much and probably should not be a priority.

        One thing I do know about resurfacing of roads is that if you resurface a road BEFORE it deteriorates too far it is far, far cheaper to maintain in the long run. Folks see paving operations on roads that to them are not in need and they cry foul. But in fact that is the most cost effective course. Unfortunately we haven’t been doing that and it is now very difficult and expensive to catch up.

        1. Silence

          @ bud – thanks for weighing in, I didn’t think about increased maintenance requirements for people’s vehicles. The (rural Richland) councilman I spoke to about the paving pointed out that ambulances couldn’t get down the dirt roads all the time.
          It would be a lot cheaper to buy the county a fleet of 4×4 ambulances to service the rural parts of the county than to pave the whole darn place. I just think we are going to spend a lot of money to do this paving project and then get stuck with a hugely inflated road maintenance bill in the future.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    I would restore the full tax on owner-occupied primary residence. I would repeal all sales tax exemptions, except groceries and medicine. I would then reduce the percentage sufficiently to make the repeal revenue neutral. . I would raise the gas and cigarette taxes to at least the national average. I would raise the exemption for head of household.

    I want more services, like free state parks, safe roads and bridges, enough highway patrols and SLED agents to enforce the laws….

    1. Doug Ross

      “I want more services, like free state parks, safe roads and bridges, enough highway patrols and SLED agents to enforce the laws….”

      How much more are you willing to pay for those things? Would you pay $5,000 more? $10,000?

      It’s easy to support the best government other people can pay for.

        1. Silence

          Repealing the tax relief on owner occupied homes would break a lot of people’s banks – literally. That would cost the average homeowner a few hundred extra a month. For a lot of people, that would literally price them out of home ownership – something we should encourage and do encourage.
          Personally, I think that title to land should be allodial, and that real estate should not be taxed at all.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            But before it passed in 2006/7, people paid full freight. How many people bought more house since then?

          2. Doug Ross

            And I think property taxes should be based on a flat user fee, not home value. I’ve beaten this dead horse more times than Barbaro but it boggles my mind to think a system where one neighbor pays a different amount in taxes for the EXACT SAME SERVICES than his neighbors on each side is considered fair. I get nothing extra for my tax dollars than my neighbor who has one less bedroom.

          3. Silence

            I bought a house since then. Since I didn’t already own one, it’s technically “more” house as you say.

          4. Kathryn Fenner

            Well, that’s one, Silence. Thing is, if the extra property tax is going to kill you financially, maybe you overbought? What about when you need to repair something?

          5. Brad Warthen Post author

            That reminds me of when I bought my current home. It was shortly after I became editorial page editor, which was the last time in my life I received a significant increase in pay. I remember telling my boss about the purchase, and mentioning it was a slight stretch for us. He told me that it was good to buy a little above what you could currently afford, because your income would continue to increase in the future. No, he wasn’t crazy. At that time, that was widely considered to be sound financial advice.

            But now, it’s a real side-splitter. Are you not diverted?…

      1. Steve Gordy

        When we moved down here from Wisconsin 25 years ago, our property tax dropped by 2/3. Of course, there we lived directly across from Greendale High School, perennially one of the top-ranked public high schools in the country. Even with regular heavy snowfalls, the roads there were better maintained than those down here. You may not always get what you pay for, but you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

        1. Doug Ross

          “You may not always get what you pay for, but you don’t get what you don’t pay for”

          There is little evidence to prove that spending more on public education results in better outcomes. We only need to look at our worst schools in Columbia to understand that. I’ve posted the statistics many times. The worst high schools in Columbia spend as much as twice per student than the better high schools with abysmal performance.

          Education outcomes are a function of the economic and educational backgrounds of the parents. The child of a single parent high school dropout has little chance of success regardless of how much money you spend to educate him.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Doug likes to write, “There is little evidence to prove that spending more on public education results in better outcomes. We only need to look at our worst schools in Columbia to understand that. I’ve posted the statistics many times. The worst high schools in Columbia spend as much as twice per student than the better high schools with abysmal performance.”

            See, to him that is unassailable. The connection between the first sentence and the last is unquestionable to him. Whereas to me, the two things have little to do with each other. We all know that it costs more to have any hope of educating poor and disadvantaged kids. And few of us are gullible enough to believe that when we DO spend more, they will automatically do as well as kids in the affluent neighborhoods.

            A kid from an affluent family, born with good cognitive skills inherited from his parents, who have high expectations and will do whatever they can to help him (and also know HOW to help him), a kid with broadband access in his home, walls full of books, and his own laptop, iPad and iPhone… a kid like that needs practically nothing from a school in order to succeed. Give him a school without resources, give him a lousy teacher who doesn’t care — he’s still just as likely to succeed.

            But a kid with none of that needs a lot more from a school. The fact that we provide more does not in any way guarantee that he’s going to excel, and only the very rarest disadvantaged kid is going to leverage the services provided to him to the point of succeeding at the same level as the kid who starts a step away from the finish line. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to help.

            And not just because it’s the moral thing to do, in terms of our duty to each other as neighbors and fellow citizens. It is in our self-interest to do all we can to help that kid to succeed. We are better off living in a society in which people have marketable skills than we are in one with a significant class of people that everyone has given up on. So we strive to build that first class of society. And when we fail, we keep trying things until we succeed. We don’t just turn our backs and say the hell with it, because there’s no solid guarantee of a proper return on our investment…

          2. Doug Ross

            “But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to help.”

            Who said we shouldn’t try? I’m all for trying. Just not trying the same thing, over and over and over and expecting a different result.

            I’m about as pro-education as anyone. I’m just opposed to wasting tax dollars when the results don’t show sufficient improvement. We should be trying all sorts of paths (including vouchers, vocational schools, etc.) to help those who need help and will take advantage of the great opportunity they have. Those who don’t care about improving themselves? Good luck flipping burgers.

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    You do not pay a tax for “services.” You pay a tax because you have benefited more from society.

    1. Doug Ross

      No, it just means I bought a bigger house than my neighbor. I didn’t benefit more, I just did more than others did with the same opportunities. So the proper response to success apparently is punishment.

    2. Doug Ross

      And I’ve seen my tax bill. It breaks down the services I receive for my property taxes explicitly.

      1. Doug Ross

        Here’s one property tax bill for one car: School Taxes 206.22, School Bonds 62.05, County 30.29, County Bonds 6.57, Fire SERVICE 14.97, Public Library 10.44, Recreation 10.29, Riverbanks Zoo 1.46, Midlands Tech 2.19, Mental Health 0.88, Road Maintenance 20.00

        Those are services. I pay more to use the library than my neighbor does. I pay more for fire service than my neighbor does.

        1. Mark Stewart

          And other neighbors pay more than you, Doug. Like you pay more income taxes than some and less than others.

          It isn’t enough to have an income tax; we have always had “wealth” taxes. Property taxes are wealth taxes. That makes sense; despite Silences statement another that land should be tax free.

          Property taxes have too important purposes: they level the load across more people more equitably as some people have plenty of assets but relatively little taxable income (inheritors and retirees) and they encourage people to recycle property to other owners who may have a higher marginal utility for that land. That’s a good thing; otherwise we would have total social stagnation.

          1. Doug Ross

            “And other neighbors pay more than you, Doug. Like you pay more income taxes than some and less than others.”

            When it comes to property taxes, I think we should pay a fee for services per dwelling. I don’t want people to pay more than I do. I want us all to pay the same amount for the same thing. We all benefit equally. Same goes for cars. Raise the gas tax and eliminate the property tax on cars.

            You also have to consider the cost of assessing homes and the accuracy of those assessments. The assessments never seem to match reality in any way.

          2. Barry


            It wouldn’t be “fair” for me to pay the same tax for my 2000 square foot house as does my neighbor with his 4500 square foot house.

          3. Doug Ross

            Why? I don’t get it. What does your neighbor get for his extra tax dollars that you don’t get?

    3. bud

      The safety net is a hammock for a tiny handful of welfare cheats. But for rich companies like SCANA and Boeing it’s more like an oversized waterbed. (Do they even still make those? They were big in the 70s)

  10. Silence

    Don’t worry though, our taxes are about to go up again. Mayor Curly is going to borrow $90M this year to “fix” the water and sewer system. Heyward Bannister is going to help convince us to borrow $59 M this year to expand and “fix” up the homless day spa library. And that’s just from today’s paper. So, we’ll pay more taxes yet, I’ll bet.

    1. Doug Ross

      Notice who the group working on the library tax increase is partnered with: M.B. Kahn Construction. M.B. Kahn, besides being in bankruptcy, has been one of the largest recipients of the half billion dollar bond issues in Richland School District 2 over the past two decades. When I ran for school board in 2002, I learned that the district PAID M.B. Kahn $50K to come up with the construction plan for the schools over the next decade and allowed them a much greater role in the process – including forecasting school construction cost increases that were far greater than inflation over the ten year period.

    2. Doug Ross

      But, Silence, since other states are likely also to raise taxes we will remain below the average. This will give Cindi Scoppe opportunity to drag out the same argument every year. And it will still not mean anything.

  11. Silence

    One thing that I’d like to see done in Columbia is some fee increases. I don’t think that nonprofits, government buildings and religious houses of worship pay property taxes – yet they receive fire & police service. With a large portion of Columbia’s property off of the tax rolls, this hurts those of us who pay full (or reduced) local taxes. Short of taxing them, they should pony up some fees in lieu of taxes – if they don’t already. Perhaps they do. Anyone know?

    1. Mark Stewart

      They don’t.

      Good luck with that though, regardless of whether or not that idea has rational merit.

      Start with USC, just for kicks.

      1. Silence

        Well, If elected I will propose that government agencies and non-profit entities pay their fair share. We will send them a bill. If they dont’ pay – they won’t get:

        Oh, I’m sorry that your cathedral is burning down your holiness. I guess you should have paid that fire service bill. Same goes to you Mr. USC president. Shoulda paid up before you needed us!

        Sorry, we aren’t sending an ambulance to that address to take you to the hospital for your heart attack. Your employer neglected to pay the ambulance service bill.

        Oh, there’s a rape/armed robbery/terrorist attack at your nonprofit? Sorry, no police for you!

  12. Brad Warthen Post author

    This was just posted on Twitter by Greg Foster, who works for Bobby Harrell:

    Greg Foster @gregfoster_sc
    @BradWarthen’s post on @taxfoundation report => Looks like the pro-lower taxes commenters are winning… #SCTweets

    My reply:
    “In SC, they always do — regardless of the facts. Possibly because they care so much, and are so passionate…”

    1. Doug Ross

      It’s simple: people in general don’t want their taxes raised. If you hold the minority opinion that taxes are too low or have not been cut enough then why would you expect otherwise? Taxes are cut because the elected officials do what the voters want. Obviously the cuts have not reached a point where the voters want a different approach.

      And why go after Bobby Harrell? He’s just one tiny voice in a large body, right? He has no power. Did Ms. Scoppe find any legislators who would go on the record in favor of tax hikes?

    2. Mark Stewart

      Bobby Harrell being parsimonious with tax-payer funds? That’s precious.

      How about funding what needs funding and stop the political corruption? Anyone?

          1. Silence

            I do what I can…
            Of course, after I pay all my taxes I can’t afford to do much but argue online.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            And when I say “high-quality,” I hope you all noticed that when I realized I had misspelled it as “queue,” I went back and corrected it to “cue”…

            Nothing is too good for y’all…

          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            You’ll also notice that I will do or say almost anything to try to shift the conversation away from actual discussion of taxes (the most extreme example being my anecdote about being beaten by my coach in high school), because the subject bores me to numbness.

            Which is why people who are deeply antitax always win the political fight. People like me just can’t get as invested in the subject, because we don’t care as much.

            The only thing I want to know about my own taxes each year is where the accountant wants me to sign. I just don’t have any emotional investment in the subject. I never have. And while I know, intellectually, that other people FEEL very strongly on the subject, I am unable to feel what they feel.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    I just get tired of arguing with those who think “they built that” and do not value community much.

    1. Silence

      I value community very much. Also, I didn’t build squat. This place was already broken when I found it.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        You actually do something besides criticize and whine, so I wasn’t talking about you.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’m glad you said that, Kathryn. We must all respectfully give each other our due…

        I know what you meant in your previous comment, though. I just don’t understand people who think all that they’ve accomplished is due to themselves.

        Maybe their lives have been simple and straightforward, without the ups and downs (in factors completely beyond their control) that I see as an inevitable part of life. Sometimes life presents opportunities; sometimes it does not. Sometimes you can take actions that might lead a gullible person to believe he “created” his own opportunity, but so often that does not happen, despite your efforts. And then there is the cold, hard fact that you are the way you are. There are things you are good at, and things you are not good at, however hard you beat your head against a wall. You’re as smart as you are and no smarter. Your health is as good as it is, and no better.

        I used to think I could do anything. I’m smarter than that now (which should astound you, because I was SO smart before!). But even when I thought I could do anything (with the possible exception of sales), I didn’t think I had earned my abilities. I knew them to be a gift.

        Maybe I’m thinking about this because of a passage I ran into randomly opening the Bible last night. It was Deuteronomy, Chapter 9:

        1 Hear, O Israel! You are now about to cross the Jordan to enter in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than yourselves, having large cities fortified to the heavens,
        2 the Anakim, a people great and tall. You yourselves know of them and have heard it said of them, “Who can stand up against the Anakim?”
        3 Know, then, today that it is the LORD, your God, who will cross over before you as a consuming fire; he it is who will destroy them and subdue them before you, so that you can dispossess and remove them quickly, as the LORD promised you.
        4 After the LORD, your God, has driven them out of your way, do not say in your heart, “It is because of my justice the LORD has brought me in to possess this land, and because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD is dispossessing them before me.”
        5 No, it is not because of your justice or the integrity of your heart that you are going in to take possession of their land; but it is because of their wickedness that the LORD, your God, is dispossessing these nations before you and in order to fulfill the promise he made on oath to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
        6 Know this, therefore: it is not because of your justice that the LORD, your God, is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          My point being that you should never think that you succeed in what you attempt “because of your justice or the integrity of your heart” or other virtues you may possess. It’s not because of your inherent moral worth. Whether you fear God or not, things happen for reasons that you know little of…

          1. Doug Ross

            Tell me about the laziest successful people you know.

            Everyone has opportunities. Some people take advantage of them. Others quit when they face failure. Others expect to be take care of by other people.

            There are individuals who have helped me throughout my life… but there have also been institutions (like the government) that have put barriers in the way.

            Community does not equal government.

    2. Doug Ross

      Who would that be then, Kathryn? It can’t be me because my family has given back to the community FAR more than we received. It’s just not in areas you frequent.

      1. Doug Ross

        Churches, schools, athletic teams, homeless… nevermind donations to animal shelters, charities (I never turn down a request). Add in 35 years of paying taxes at higher ends of the tax brackets and I think I’ve done more than my share.

        I just don’t use other people’s money to meet my personal beliefs.

      2. Silence

        Doug, I suggest you read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. You still have your trunk and stump, so you still have more to give! 😉

  14. Doug Ross

    Elizabeth Warren and her “you didn’t build that” comment may be the intellectual equivalent of Sarah Palin. She hasn’t got a clue about the real world.

    1. Steve Gordy

      Doug, maybe you can explain how a small-town girl from Oklahoma gets an education, moves up north and gets elected to the U.S. Senate. What, in your mind, constitutes real-world experience?

        1. Doug Ross

          Not claiming to be an American Indian to get special benefits provided by the government.

          Not making asinine recent statements about student loans, suggesting that the interest rate should be what banks charge each other. That alone was enough to convince me she is a Palin-esque populist without a clue.

          1. Doug Ross

            She also hasn’t worked outside academia or the government since 1976. She did work from home on wills, etc. for a year way back then.

  15. Pat

    I can’t help but think that personal motivation, skills, intelligence, and opportunity is certainly certainly integral to success yet there have been so many individuals who have come before us who have paved the way. We have been planted in fertile soil, but Apollos watered, and God gave the increase, so how much credit can we really take without counting our blessings.

    1. Doug Ross

      God doesn’t like quitters. And I’m fine with giving all thanks to God. He certainly had a larger positive role in my life than any government bureaucrat.

      I’ll also go along with “You didn’t build that” if every EBT card is stamped with “You didn’t earn this”.

  16. bud

    Dang, 118 posts for an utterly boring topic like taxes. Hey you rich folks that pay high taxes get over it. You still live vastly better lives than the rest of us. Even after paying a ton in taxes you still have a huge house a luxury car and get to travel often. Why should us poor folk who eat beanie weenies listen to this whining? Frankly the rich benefit far more than the poor from government services. What does a slum owner have to lose if their house burns down? What does a poor guy have to lose if his home gets robbed? Pennies compared to the rich with their jewelry stash, fancy clothes and 60 inch plasma TVs. Not only would I tax based on the value of homes I’d tax at a higher rate as well.

    1. Silence

      bud, when was the last time you ate any beenie weenies? I had filet mignon tonight, with Ore Ida french fries and real Heinz ketchup, so I guess I shouldn’t be talking…
      My TV’s not 60 inches though. It’s also not plasma.

      You should know though, that us wealthy plutocrats don’t keep our wealth stashed at home like the po’ folks do. Except for my emergency gold bullion supply….

      1. bud

        Just got through eating a Sloppy Joe. Not bad really. I guess even us poor folk eat better than 90% of the rest of the world. And that’s something to be thankful for.

  17. Silence

    The real problem is that all of these “rich” kids are “working” as unpaid interns and taking the entry level white-collar jobs away from people who need to earn a living, relegating people who can’t afford to intern to a life of servitude and low wages. The solution is to find unpaid internships in violation of FLSA.

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