South Carolina’s House Republicans are considering ways to overhaul the state’s tax system, which nearly every policymaker agrees is badly in need of reform.
On Monday, special study group of GOP legislators heard from Clemson scholar Holley Ulbrich, considered one of the state’s top tax experts. Ulbrich made several recommendations, including eliminating many of the old exemptions and credits in order to make the system more fair.
She also called for expanding the state’s sales tax so it covers more online sales and services that are not currently covered. However, Republican legislators are treading carefully with an election year coming up, as even eliminating a loophole could be considered a tax increase by their constituents.
But lawmakers seemed receptive to at least one idea– putting a sunset provision on any changes to the tax system.
“Every year (legislators) look at all the expenditures with a fine-tooth comb, but they don’t give the same kind of regular review to the tax system,” Ulbrich told South Carolina Radio Network after the meeting, “It gets kind of old, crusty, and out of date because of that lack of regular review.”
Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) said he would support putting sunset provisions on tax code changes, even if he had to bring an amendment forward himself on each individual bill. “The idea (is) that we put a tax in place and say, ‘Look, in five years that has to be reviewed because it expires,’” he said, “That causes the Legislature to look hard at every tax and not let them stay on the books for 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years.”
Ulbrich said another possibility could include bringing back a special legislative commission that reviews the state’s tax code every year.
Committee chairman Tommy Stringer (R-Greer) said the group will receive input at their meeting every Monday through the end of October. They will then propose any ideas at the House GOP’s agenda-setting meeting in November.
House leaders are hoping to include some significant tax changes on their agenda for 2012. Since the GOP holds a major advantage in the chamber, any proposals would likely be taken up when lawmakers return in January.