State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, sent the following letter to supporters and constituents.
The update comes less than a month after some island residents questioned his absence from the S.C. House earlier this year.
Also, numbers cited by Patrick about the number of deceased people who cast ballots may be misleading, according to the State Election Commission and reporting done the end of last month by The (Columbia) State newspaper.
Read The State article: Election Commission: No evidence of voter fraud. But attorney general calls report ‘premature’
Here's the letter Patrick sent out yesterday:
The South Carolina General Assembly reconvened on January 10, 2012. We have much to accomplish to improve our state's economy to insure we provide for a pro growth climate that will motivate our states business's to create jobs. Beginning with this newsletter, I'll be reporting each Monday on the news from the State House. Even though the report can get lengthy, consider it your 'news briefing digest' on state government. I hope you'll scan it like a newspaper and spend time with the issues that interest you.
Sometimes it's Best to Say NO: On the first day of the new session, the SC House killed legislation that would have expanded government. The House upheld Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of a bill creating a regional council that was intended to improve economic and education opportunities along rural I-95. I was one of a handful of Representatives who originally voted against the bill last spring because it created another needless bureaucracy. However, it passed the House and Senate and Haley vetoed the bill arguing it unnecessarily increases state government and duplicates what the state commerce and education departments already do. The Senate voted to override her veto. The House subsequently sustained the veto and the legislation failed.
States' Rights - Standing Up to Big Brother: Also on the first day of the session I stood with Gov. Haley, Speaker Harrell, Attorney General Wilson and other legislators in announcing plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice's decision to block the SC voter ID law. The law would require voters to show a photo identification card issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles or a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.
Voter ID - Dead People Voting in SC!: Democratic state legislators fought the Voter ID bill claiming voter fraud doesn't exist in SC. The facts don't support their claim. The S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles director estimates more than 900 people who were recorded as having voted were actually deceased and he has turned that data over to the SLED for investigation. DMV director Kevin Schwedo testified before a S.C. House subcommittee stating that his staff analyzed the records of more than 239,000 voters who do not have a state driver's license or identification card, and discovered that about 37,000 of them were deceased.
Privatize School Buses: Good government most often is less government. Government shouldn't do things that could be better and more efficiently performed by the competitive private industry. I co-sponsored a bill that calls for the privatization of SC's public school bus system. SC is the only state operating a bus system. It also has an aging bus fleet with many buses 20+ years old.
Retirement System Fix: At last a bill is being introduced in the House to change the state retirement system and reduce its $13 billion deficit. Analysts say the changes, if adopted, would immediately cut $2.2 billion in deficit. It has taken months of negotiations to formulate and it's likely few will be happy. The proposal calls for state workers to pay an extra 1% from each paycheck into the retirement fund - an average increase of $408 a year. Current employees will see little change, but new hires would have to work 30 years, or reach age 65 with five years of service, in order to retire with benefits. Additionally, new hires would be ineligible for the TERI program, the controversial program that allows employees to retire and receive benefits while still working. All of the changes would apply to members of the S.C. Retirement System, the largest of the state's five pension systems, which includes state employees, local government employees and teachers. Police officers, firefighters and other law enforcement officers have their own retirement system.
Tax Reform: For the past eight months the House Republican Caucus has worked to change how everybody in South Carolina pays taxes. Last week we introduced a package of seven bills. There's a ground swell of support in the House of Representatives.
The chief goals are to provide significant tax relief to you and to help our over-taxed businesses so they can create more jobs and get people back to work. Here's a top-line summary:
Industrial Property Tax Drops: We propose to cut the business property tax rate from 10.5% to 6%. The 10.5% rate is a problem for recruiting major manufacturers to SC. It also hurts small businesses with expensive equipment - such as small manufacturers, construction companies, and companies with large technology investments.
Help Small Businesses: Our small businesses need help. We call for a drop in the property tax from 6% to 5% on commercial and rental property. I have heard more about this issue than any other. Act 388 shifted the burden of school taxes from homeowners to businesses and its sapping their ability to operate and hire. This will provide needed relief.
More Help for Small Businesses: Slash small business' "active income" that most small businesses report on their personal tax forms. We will reduce the business income tax rate from 5% to 3% helping them invest in, and grow, their businesses.
Eliminate Sales Tax Exemptions: This is a big one! Eliminate two-thirds of the special interest sales tax exemptions while preserving the ones that benefit families (gasoline, food, electricity, water, medicine). This is achieved with a corresponding sales tax rate decrease to offset the increased revenue collections.
Review Sales Tax Exemptions: We propose to review all sales tax exemptions every 5 years. Nearly all of the sales tax exemptions given by the General Assembly had a viable and defendable purpose at one time but later may be outdated.
Flatten State Income Tax: This proposed legislation collapses the six tax brackets (0, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 percent) to three (0, 3, 7), which makes the tax code more coherent while giving 4 out of 5 South Carolinians a tax cut or no change in their liability.
Eliminate Corporate Income Tax: This is achieved by cutting the rate by 1.25% per year over four years. This was an issue on which Gov. Haley vigorously campaigned.
This is tax reform that doesn't tinker around the edges. This package is not 'revenue neutral' it is 'revenue negative'. It addresses a tax code that is inconsistent and overtaxing. This plan is designed to help the economy grow, not stunt taxpayers.
The Long & Messy Process of Tax Reform: The introduction of this tax package is the first step in a long process of needed tax reform in SC. I remain committed to leading the initiative for the S.C. Fair Tax Act, its philosophy was a major driver in creating this tax reform. The legislative process is messy and sometimes maddening, but it is my hope that conservative activists, the Tea Party, and everyone who believes in fairer taxes will help us push for passage of these tax reform bills that promote prosperity. It's a solid step in the right direction!
State Budget: This last week we debated next year's state budget in the House. I'm pleased to report the proposed budget includes significant tax relief:
Be assured there were disagreements and much debate on how to wisely spend your tax money, but both sides came together to pass a balanced budget that falls well within the proposed cap on spending. It focuses on the core functions of government - education, infrastructure and law enforcement - all of which are vital to our state's growing economy.
The spending plan also provides tax relief, pays off debt and replenishes the state's 'rainy day' reserve accounts.
Headlines from the $6 billion General Fund appropriations: For those of you counting and you know who you are, before you say it I know that the overall spending will include "Other" funds and "Federal" funds. The "General" fund budget accounts for less than one third of the overall spending in our state.
$152 million in additional funds for K-12 used in the classroom and not for educational bureaucracy.
$180 million set aside to pay for SC's share of the deepening of the Charleston Port, the major economic driver for SC.
$77 million in tax relief to employers of all sizes to assist them with some relief from the high unemployment insurance costs caused by the recession.
$549 million in tax relief; 88% of which is property tax relief that must be granted annually if the relief is to remain.
Nearly $400 million to the Constitutional and Statutory Reserves - those funds go into our savings account for the next economic downturn - "The Rainy Day Fund'.
While the General Fund budget grows by 4.56%, this plan calls for far less spending as compared to the beginning of the recession. The increase is aimed at patching the severe cuts that have occurred in recent years in law enforcement and education. It is a fiscally conservative spending plan designed to make SC more competitive.
The Governor's Criticism: In Governor Haley's fly-around-the-state tour this last week she promoted her idea for a one-year only tax cut benefiting major corporations. The House budget plan cuts taxes for every single SC employer, hopefully, that will stimulate hiring.
The Governor also took aim on House Republican's 7 point comprehensive tax reform plan introduced this week. She called it "disingenuous" even though she and her staff worked with our tax reform committee over the past eight months and the legislation included everything she asked for and much more.
What's Next for the Budget? The proposed budget heads to the Senate. If past years are any indication, senators will bloat the budget with additional spending. Please let your senator know that's not acceptable.
If you have a question regarding a particular vote I cast, please call or e-mail me with your question. I do not vote blindly without fully understanding the consequences and am more than happy discuss your concerns.
Please pass along this newsletter to someone who might not be receiving it and suggest they sign-up to receive my Legislative Updates by registering at my website www.andypatrick.org.