The Charleston Post-Courier ran an article yesterday calling into question whether the South Carolina legislature is moving away from their limited government, anti-tax hike tendencies in light of the 50 cent per pack cigarette tax increase that the legislature approved last month with an override of Gov. Sanford’s veto.
The article noted that in voting for this 714% rate hike, 19 legislators broke their Taxpayer Protection Pledges, a written promise they made to their constituents to oppose all tax increases. Apparently at least one lawmaker was confused as to the commitment he made to constituents. In the article, the Post-Courier notes:
“Rep. Kenneth Bingham, R-Lexington, is one of the legislators that Americans for Tax Reform has said broke the no-tax pledge. Bingham said he signed the pledge during his House campaign in 1999 but did not re-sign for later terms, unaware that he would be held to it for life.”
No, Bingham is not held to his Pledge for life. But he is bound by the Pledge for the duration of his tenure in the office for which he signed. This is no secret and not unreasonable by any measure when one considers this was a central campaign promise that he ran on. In fact, ATR informs all legislators and candidates of this every election cycle.
Bingham wasn’t the only legislator to make questionable statements to the Post-Courier. Rep. Chip Limehouse said that he voted for the bill because viewed it as “a worthwhile inroad against a dangerous habit.”
The fact is, if Limehouse’s goal was simply to curb smoking, he could’ve have done so in a way that didn’t raise taxes by supporting a revenue neutral bill. In fact, Gov. Sanford made it clear that he would have signed a cigarette tax hike, so long as it was offset with tax relief elsewhere. That Limehouse and his colleagues refused to send Sanford such a bill proves that this was all about more money for the government and not about public health, or the kids, or any of the other warm and fuzzy, but false, reasons given by Limehouse and his fellow tax hikers.
Lawmakers also used this tax hike to further game the dysfunctional federal matching fund system; allowing the state to draw down as much as a 3-1 federal match. As if passing a massive tax increase (which will be borne mostly by the state’s poorest) amidst skyrocketing unemployment and a down economy weren’t bad enough, the Palmetto State will now be further dependent on a federal government that is over $12 trillion in debt.
Call the Republicans who overrode Sanford’s veto what you want, just don’t call them conservative. South Carolina voters will have the opportunity to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions in next Tuesday’s primary. All four Republican gubernatorial candidates have signed the Pledge. For the list of challengers who have signed, CLICK HERE. For the list of incumbent Pledge signers, CLICK HERE.