From the Dome to Your Home
The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. The House gave third and final reading to its version of the state budget on Wednesday morning, while the Senate worked through the calendar. The Senate Finance Committee plans to start its work on the House version of the budget on Tuesday.
House passes its version of the state budget
The House of Representatives gave third reading to its version of the budget bill, H3720, early Wednesday morning. The budget largely remained unchanged from the House Ways and Means Committee version of the budget.
The full House included these items in its version of the budget:
- No additional recurring funds in the Local Government Fund leaving the fund at the 2017 budgeted level of $212.6 million. The FY 2017 $12.6 million non-recurring money was not included in the FY 2018 budget.
- Hurricane Matthew FEMA match fully funded.
- Pinnacle Mountain fire FEMA match fully funded.
- Beach renourishment funded at $5 million of $15 million requested.
- One percent of the 2 percent increase in the SCRS and PORS employer contribution rates funded with recurring revenue. The funding reduces the employer contribution rate for SCRS from 13.56 percent to 12.56 percent and PORS from 16.24 percent to 15.24 percent.
Rep. Kirkman Finlay (R – Richland) introduced an amendment to the budget that would have prevented the Municipal Association or any other nongovernmental entity, including a credit card company, from collecting a business license tax. The amendment exempted the Association's existing insurance, telecommunications and insurance brokers' collection programs. The amendment was tabled (or defeated) by a vote of 59 to 46.
H3721, the joint resolution that appropriates dollars from the Capital Reserve Fund, was amended and passed to include a $700,000 appropriation to the Town of Nichols for a federal FEMA match for Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.
Contact Melissa Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1251 for specific information on the budget.
Gas tax bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee
The Senate Finance Committee amended and approved H3516, the bill that increases the gas tax to raise revenue for road maintenance and repair, and sent it to the full Senate for debate. It remains on the Senate contested calendar.
H3516, as it was voted out by the House, raises the motor vehicle user fee by 2 cents per year over the next five years. It also generates new revenue from increases in driver's license fees and sales taxes on cars. The new revenue generated, estimated at $600 million per year, will be placed in a trust fund for road maintenance and repair only. The bill also makes governance changes to the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission by allowing the governor to appoint commissioners with the consent of the General Assembly.
Last week, a special Senate Finance Transportation subcommittee amended H3516 to increase the gas tax 2 cents every year for six years to raise $800 million for roads. The amendment caps the gas tax below Georgia and North Carolina's current tax rates, and strikes the S.C. DOT governance changes included in the House bill. The amendment also raises car sales taxes and other fees. The full Senate Finance Committee amended the bill further to change the car tax structure but yield the same revenue results.
For questions about the gas tax, contact Scott Slatton (email@example.com) at 803.933.1203.
Business license bills remain in committee
Rep. Bill Sandifer (R – Seneca) and 13 other sponsors introduced two bills, H3650 and H3651, on February 2 that drastically cut city revenues and create tax inequities for small businesses due to special tax exemptions. These bills were recommitted back to the committee for further work and the Municipal Association staff continues to work with business interests and legislative staff to return the bills to the initial intent of standardizing the business license process.
What can you do?
Continue to call your House members and urge them to vote NO on these bills as they are currently written. Encourage them to support continued work to return to the original purpose of streamlining the business license process without exemptions and without control shifted to a state agency. Here are several points to emphasize about these bills:
Removes local authority: Takes authority from locally elected city councils and gives it to a state agency resulting in growing state government and bureaucracy.
Hands out exemptions to special interests: Picks winners and losers by handing out tax exemptions to some businesses which guarantees tax increases for others.
Creates ambiguities and inconsistencies: Generates confusion with ambiguous language that complicates the business licensing process for cities and businesses instead of streamlining it.
Reduces revenue to cities: Contact Melissa Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1251 for assistance on estimating the financial impact this bill would have on your city or town.
As you talk to your legislators about this bill, please share any feedback with Casey Fields (email@example.com) at 803.933.1256. For questions on these bills, contact Miriam Hair (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1204 or Melissa Carter (email@example.com) at 803.933.1251.
Weekly Bill Introductions
Access bills that were introduced this week and bills that received action from a subcommittee or committee through our legislative tracking system complete with short summaries. Visit the legislative tracking system to see and comment on all bills pending in the House and Senate.