Originally created 06/03/04

Income tax cut could be dead



COLUMBIA - Gov. Mark Sanford's plan to cut income taxes for the state's highest-paid residents effectively died Wednesday as the Senate sent his cornerstone agenda item back to a committee.

With one day left in the session, the move appeared to kill the bill, which was mortally wounded last week when senators wouldn't end a filibuster.

"We got it to the 1-yard line," Mr. Sanford said.

Unless senators have a speedy change of heart, Mr. Sanford will mark off just three of the 16 items on his Checklist for Change when the Legislature adjourns for the year at 5 p.m. today.

Last month, the Republican governor signed a bill that limits regulations on small businesses.

On Wednesday, lawmakers approved bills that offer classroom teachers more protection from assaults and that ensure the state will repay a $155 million debt left from the 2002 fiscal year.

Handling the deficit has "clearly been one of the top priorities for our administration this legislative session, and this bill takes us significant steps in that direction," Mr. Sanford said.

Mr. Sanford had proposed lowering the state's top 7 percent income tax rate to 4.75 percent over the next several years as the economy grows. He said his plan was "absolutely vital to helping small businesses expand and create jobs here in South Carolina."

Critics said the reduction would benefit only the state's top wage earners.

Some observers said Mr. Sanford's animosity with legislators held up his agenda, but Mr. Sanford said the income tax plan fell victim to archaic rules that allow a single senator to keep a bill from being passed.

"We're going to continue to push for this bill, and we certainly hope that the Senate is going to look at its rules during the offseason so that the will of the majority of senators isn't held hostage in the future," Mr. Sanford said.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said those guidelines are being reviewed and it may become easier to end filibusters next year if they are tweaked.

To end a Democratic filibuster on the income tax bill last week, Mr. Sanford's allies needed 28 votes but could muster no more than 25.

Supporters said it was up to the governor to persuade three senators to change their votes.

Mark Sanford: Governor says archaic rules caused a tax cut bill to be sent back to a committee.