Originally created 05/01/01

Empty anti-tax gesture

This newspaper is all for cutting taxes whenever and wherever possible, but sometimes tax cut fever gets overheated. That's what happened this month when a large majority of South Carolina House members voted to henceforth require a two-thirds favorable vote in both chambers before a tax could be raised or a new one imposed.

The first question is, why? There's no frantic movement afoot to boost taxes. To the contrary, all the movement in recent years has been to cut taxes. The last legislative tax increase was the 3-cent a gallon gas hike in 1987.

Critics note that if the House plan gets through the Senate and survives a probable gubernatorial veto, it would, as far as taxes are concerned, strip the majority of its ruling power by turning control over to a one-third plus one minority.

If the GOP-controlled General Assembly wants to go that undemocratic route they ought to do it via a referendum to change the state constitution. Before lawmakers adopt minority rule, they should at least ask voters to give majority consent.

Interestingly, if the measure isn't approved by referendum, the two-thirds tax boost requirement would be virtually meaningless because legislators could, at any time, waive the requirement by a simple majority vote and then vote - again by a simple majority - to increase the tax.

We suspect the House isn't serious. Members know the Senate almost certainly won't follow suit. They're posturing, ginning up a record they can take to tax-cut constituencies in next year's elections.

Campaigns, it seems, start earlier and earlier in each election cycle.


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