As a legislative session is underway where tax reform debate is in the spotlight, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum for a bipartisan group of lawmakers to find momentum that will yield results in the House and Senate. Years of study of this complicated topic make it feel like “we’ve been practicing for a game that won’t ever” be played, said House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, R-York. The Chamber of Commerce likens tax reform to the drive for education reform, where the goal is that South Carolina will be competitive for business and jobs compared to neighboring states so families can “grow and prosper.” Typical tax reform ideas are anticipated to involve adjustments to state income tax brackets, targeting sales tax exemptions for removal, and reexamining the law that put responsibilities on property taxes for school operations on businesses rather than owner-occupied homes. Legislators said the painful process can be expedited if they receive as much feedback as possible from the business community. “Quite frankly, what we do and don’t do will be based on how much you push us,” state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said.
Senior Post and Courier reporter David Slade points to credits in the state’s tax code that residents should be familiar with, such as the “excess insurance premium” credit that can help coastal residents and the new 20.83% non-refundable state credit for those who qualify for the federal earned income tax credit. Among credits linked to education, public and private school educators can be reimbursed up to $275 for out-of-pocket classroom supply spending that occurred after July 1, while Future Scholar 529 contributions can also lead to savings. Slade points out that the “motor fuel income tax credit” of saving receipts for fuel purchases and maintenance all year long for a $10 rebate amounts to “roughly two-thirds of the extra tax that would have been paid on 500 gallons of gas.”
The rules on how S.C. lawmakers receive gifts from the public should be simple: to accept anything with a value over $25 requires a disclosure on a statement of economic interests. But what happens when no one in the office is sure what a gift is worth, like a book about corruption? This week, the House Rules Committee approved a change to that ethics rules, and it’s been sent for a vote the full House: A gift-giver must register any gift worth greater than $25 with the Ethics Commission; no gifts may be distributed in the House chamber; and a lawmaker must sign for anything valued greater than $25. “It takes the duty of determining value off the shoulders of Ethics Committee staff and places it appropriately on the shoulder of the party desiring to give the gift,” House Rules Committee chairman Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, said.
Charleston County’s economic development office is gearing up for the first shakeup to its strategic plan in decades, and it is seeking approval to hire a consultant based in Austin, Texas. Jeff Marcell, senior partner at TIP Strategies Inc., is a County Council committee’s unanimous front-runner of seven groups competing for the bid, and his work is up for approval by the County Council. Among the challenges that Marcell’s plan is set to address over the next decade are how to network with other regional economic development groups, the area’s labor shortage despite a state-low unemployment rate of 2.7%, as well as how to handle business real estate development. While it is unclear from documents how much the consulting will cost, a line item in the county’s economic development group’s budget calls for $4.3 million.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament will arrive at Colonial Life Arena for the first time in almost 50 years, and Columbia tourism officials see the five days of the March Madness opening weekend as an opportunity to showcase to a national TV audience the area’s diversity of entertainment offerings. At the heart of the $9 million economic impact are the 25,000 college hoops fans predicted to descend on the 18,000-seat arena for games on Friday, March 22, and Sunday, March 24, that will feature eight of the nation’s 68 best teams (the latest ESPN bracketology has Duke and Virginia arriving as No. 1 seeds, competing against the likes of TCU, Washington, Kansas State, Indiana, Rider, and Prairie View A&M or Sam Houston State via a play-in game). As logistics such as free shuttle rides are prepared, businesses with events targeted for the weekend include Steel Hands Brewing, Liberty Tap Room, Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, and a free fan fest at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Around 400,000 people flocked to Columbia in August 2017 to witness the total solar eclipse for a $48 million impact, and 80,000 college football fans visit Williams-Brice Stadium for a typical Gamecocks football Saturday.