State Rep. Rex Rice (left) and fifty-five of his good buddies in the House of Representatives are rumored to be dropping a bill today to increase the cigarette tax in South Carolina, with proceeds going to low-income health care needs.
Good for them. We need to raise the cigarette tax.
South Carolina's lowest-in-the-nation tax on smokes is nowhere near as high as it should be given where our neighboring states are, and whether you believe that for inflationary or health-related reasons, the bottom line is that 4 out of 5 of you believe it according to recent polls. North Carolina did the sensible thing last year and raised its cigarette tax from 7 to 35 cents, on the heels of Kentucky raising its tax from 3 to 30 cents. South Carolina should do the sensible thing this year and follow suit.
Unfortunately, we can't raise the cigarette tax in a vacuum.
For it to work, a cigarette tax increase has to be part of a broader, comprehensive overhaul of our state's antiquated tax code that materially addresses property, sales and income taxes, too. And beyond just addressing all of these things, that broader, comprehensive overhaul has to be a net tax cut for the people of South Carolina with its core objectives being job creation, capital investment stimulation and slowing the rampant growth of government in our state.
Gov. Mark Sanford pushed a cigarette tax-income tax swap back in 2003, but got shouted down by the General Assembly a lot like Rice gets shouted down every year he offers his straight-up cigarette tax increase. We then hear a lot from Republican leaders about the lack of "legislative appetite."
But Cigarettasaurus Rex is a gamer. The Greenville-Pickens Representative isn't afraid of a fight, no matter who's lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage. In fact, one of the best urban legends in all of South Carolina politics is that he tried to have Gov. Sanford arrested by State House security the day he brought two piglets to the door of the House Chambers. And this time, as mentioned, Rice is bringing 50+ buddies along for the fight.
Buckle your chinstraps ...
FITS has learned that the RINO Caucus is about to be minus a very influential member. State Rep. Ronnie Townsend, Chairman of the powerful House Education Committee, is not seeking another term in 2006. Thank God. The Anderson "Republican" has been a stalwart opponent of school choice and a tool of the liberal education bureaucracy for the duration of his tenure as Chairman, and South Carolina is fortunate indeed that he is returning to the land of the Egg-tooth.
Now if only we can get the Ways & Means Chairman to join him ... hmmmm.