Charleston Real Estate
Real Estate at its Best!
Sign InSign Up
gradient header



Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - Last Updated: 8:18 AM

Tax relief measure heads to full House

Plan would eliminate most taxes on homes


The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA - With one eye on the 2006 elections and the other on rising property taxes, a House committee approved a comprehensive relief package Tuesday that would eliminate the bulk of homeowners' tax bills.

State lawmakers said the Ways and Means Committee's 20-3 vote sends a powerful statement to constituents whose tax bills went through the roof during the latest reassessments.

'I think we are sending a message that people will actually own their homes instead of renting them,' said committee Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Piedmont.

The House plan would eliminate about 85 percent of property taxes on owner-occupied homes - all local taxes except bonded indebtedness - in exchange for a 2-cent sales tax increase.

The proposal also:

-- Eliminates all state taxes on groceries.

-- Caps local governments' ability to raise taxes on other types of property to the consumer price index plus population growth. (A higher tax increase must be approved by 75 percent of the local governing body.)

-- Closes a loophole that allows school districts to borrow money through alternative financing plans.

The second part of the tax relief package would ask voters in November to decide whether to move to a 'point of sale' reassessment system that revalues property only when it is sold or significantly improved.

The property tax package now goes to the full House, which is expected to take up the measure next week. Based on the discussion during committee, the debate on the House floor is likely to feature dramatic political pyrotechnics. 'That's where the real knock-down, drag-out fights are going to be,' Cooper said.

Even more, the House's effort could prove futile because key senators have indicated that the hallmark provision in the House's plan - a billion dollar tax-swap - has little chance of passing this year.

House committee members debated the two pieces of legislation for more than three hours Tuesday and made only small changes despite numerous attempts from opponents and supporters.

Even leading Democrats who were concerned about equity issues backed down, accepting the political reality of the situation and vowing to continue the fight on the House floor. 'I wasn't going to get in front of that train,' said Rep. Harry Ott, the House Minority leader. 'I don't think there was any doubt this was going to pass ... and nothing said here today would have changed that.'

The St. Matthews Democrat and other lawmakers were concerned about how the new sales tax money would be distributed as the state takes over more funding of local governments and school districts. They worry the money won't be doled out evenly, consequently locking in current inequities in school subsidies.

School districts would be funded at their current levels for the first year, but in subsequent years, the money would be distributed on a weighted-pupil basis similar to the current Education Finance Act funding formula.

This method of distribution could be troublesome for Charleston County schools, which saw an unexpected $7.5 million decrease in state funding last year.

The bill's supporters say the impact on schools would be minimal because the new sales tax revenue makes up only one-eighth of a district's overall budget. Also, a provision in the bill ensures that state support doesn't fall below 40 percent.

Still, some wealthier school districts could lose money.

'It's just a cross we have to bear on the coast,' said Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston. 'We are deeply concerned, but the more important issue is property tax relief for homeowners.'

Even if House members strike a middle ground on the distribution issue, the Senate still sees the property tax problem differently.

Senators have proposed spreading the property tax relief to more areas, such as rental units and cars. Also, they would give local governments more flexibility in restructuring the reassessment system.

Leading senators worry that the House's plan to nearly eliminate home taxes is too ambitious.

'It would be nice if there's a (tax) substitution ... but the culprit is reassessment, said Sen. David Thomas, R-Greenville, who originally pitched a House-type plan but recently backed off. 'The bottom line is we can live where we are, but we can't live with reassessment continuing where it's been.



Site Map


Mark Costello - AgentOwned Realty


1400 Palm Blvd.


Isle of Palms, SC. 29451


Cell 843.224.3233 - Fax 843.725.6532


Fair Housing Act



Privacy Notice:
AgentOwned Realty understands and appreciates the importance of our client's privacy and any information you provide us will be kept in the strictest of confidence.


Copyrights 2005 by Charleston Home Advisor.  All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the owners.