Statehouse members are tired of hearing from their constituents

Last week, a state Senate panel gave preliminary approval to a plan that would dramatically slash the property taxes the good people of the Palmetto State pay on real estate, vehicles, boats, and motorcycles.

Over the last two months, S.C. property owners have been hopping mad about skyrocketing tax bills due to recent county property value reassessments. Tax bills in Charleston County rose by an average of 30 percent. As such, they haven’t been shy about contacting their elected officials — who haven’t really wanted to take those phone calls and so decided to act quickly in order to shut everybody up.

Under the proposal, taxes on owner-occupied homes, second homes not used as rental property, renter-occupied homes and apartments, automobiles, boats, and motorcycles could be cut by as much as 50 percent.

The lost revenue, according to the proposal, would be made up by increasing the statewide sales tax from 5 cents to 7 cents on the dollar (except on groceries).

Sounds simple, right?

The Eye would like to remind everybody out there that there is no such thing as “simple” in South Carolina.

The big change from the proposal involves how school districts are funded. The bulk of a property owner’s county tax bill funds the public school operating costs in that property owner’s school district.

The panel decided almost unanimously to transfer those operating costs to the sales tax collections and would shift $906 million for public schools into the state budget. This would be covered by the 2 cent increase.

Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill) was the sole opponent to the proposal and based his objections on two little words The Eye hasn’t heard in a while and has never cared for: home rule.

Hayes felt the proposal impacts the ability of local governments to take care of themselves and could mean less money for certain school districts.

Hayes wants the reassessment process reviewed and was part of the unanimous vote to draw up a constitutional amendment to change how reassessment is conducted.

Why can’t these jokers ever make a decision instead of wasting time on writing constitutional amendments?

The Eye bets the manner in which the public schools will be funded from a centralized state authority will be what torpedoes this proposal when the General Assembly convenes in January 2006.

The Eye has a hard time visualizing all those nice white ladies driving Suburbans in I’On giving a rat’s ass about the schools in Williamsburg County. They likely have never known that Clarendon County was almost the lead case in the 1954 Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education decision.

As for Statehouse members, The Eye is fairly sure they’ll figure out another way to continue the erosion of the state’s public school system to the benefit of property owners. Surely they’re counting on the knowledge that many public school parents are too busy working two jobs to be calling them up and bitching their children’s lousy schools.


Never underestimate the power of public prayer

The continuing saga of elected officials trying to bring Jesus into government moved a little south last week when the Beaufort County school board voted unanimously to add a prayer to its meetings.

Ten years ago, the board replaced invocations with a moment of silence.

Boardmember Stu Rodman told the Associated Press that he was taken aback that meetings were not opened with a prayer when he joined the school board, “I do think it’s appropriate to ask the Lord’s blessing over a meeting.”

How about “legal,” Stu? Is “legal” appropriate? Just asking.

This guy had to have been inspired by what’s been going on in the Upstate with this public prayer nonsense lately, noted The Eye.

Rodman has his ideas about how the invocation would be invoked, but said he’d leave it up to Chairwoman Dale Friedman to decide.

How gallant, mused The Eye, leaving something as critically important as this to a woman.

Friedman told the AP, “I don’t have any objection as long as it represents the diversity of the religious community.”

Hmm, thought The Eye, what about the diversity of the secular community, or are they going to Hell anyway, so who cares?