The Greenville Chamber of Commerce laid out its advocacy plan for the upcoming legislative session Dec. 9, and infrastructure is once again at the top of the list.
The Chamber, as well as a coalition of 10 more chambers of commerce, supports increasing the gas tax by 10 to 12 cents to provide a recurring source of income to fix the state’s roads system. The Upstate Chamber Coalition also wants that gas tax hike to be tied to inflation so it would automatically increase without the General Assembly’s action in the future.
With a much smaller budget surplus forecast for the coming year, the Legislature won’t be able to take the less-combative solution of dedicating surplus to roads like it did last session, say members of the Greenville County Legislative Delegation.
The chamber coalition said if the state won’t act on infrastructure funding, it should allow municipalities the ability to use referendums for residents to vote on local sales taxes for capital projects.
City of Greenville elected officials have said for years they would like to have the ability to control a sales tax for capital projects such as roads or sidewalk improvements. When the countywide penny sales tax referendum for roads projects failed in 2014, the proposal showed its greatest promise of passing in the city’s core.
The chamber also will advocate for tax credits for Fortune 500 company headquarters and high-impact companies as well as streamlining the business license fee process. It will also lobby the Legislature to reauthorize an Angel Investor Tax Credit program to promote funding for start-ups.
The chamber’s advocacy platform also supports fully funding the state’s education system and continued workforce development initiatives, as well finding a solution to the state’s public pension liability.
Reps. Mike Burns, R-Travelers Rest, and Chandra Dillard, D-Greenville, each serve on the tax study committee, an appointed body that’s looking at the state’s tax structure. Burns said he wants the state to lower its income tax rate from 7% to 5 or 6% while eliminating sales tax exemptions on items like groceries, prescriptions and the $300 sales tax cap on car sales.
Burns said the tax study committee may advocate that the Ways and Means Committee move to a two-year budget.
Dillard said the committee wants to broaden the tax base while remaining revenue-neutral, but she said her biggest concern is to make changes to the system created by Act 388, which provided property tax relief but Dillard said created a system of winners and losers with local government and the public education system on the losing end.
Rep. Garry Smith, R-Simpsonville, said the Legislature also will be tasked with finding funds to pay for Hurricane Matthew recovery and also likely for damage from the Simpsonville tornado, which may not qualify for federal aid.