Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sanford's briar patch

All during the budget process, I along with conservatives have been screaming "stop this irresponsible spending"! Well, we fought the good fight, yet when the votes came, we failed. At the end, the big spenders win and the taxpayers lose. As I try to be optimistic in every bad situation, I have drawn one positive note in this losing song of wasteful spending and I hope you can follow my tune. Ponder this. Politically, this is a win for Gov. Sanford. He gets a big fat budget with more pork than Circle M BBQ. I'm predicting Mark throws out his rotator cuff scratching through the line-item-vetoes.
I'm not doubting Sanford's sincerity nor his spending principles, but fans of big government are throwing him into the briar patch!
"Skin me Briar Fox," says Briar Rabbit. "Snatch out my eyeballs, tear out my ears by the roots," says he, "But please, Briar Fox, don't fling me in that briar patch, ". (Song of the South)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Gov coming to Anderson! Friday 3:45 pm

Today I'm back at my real job, Bryant Pharmacy & Supply. Gov. Sanford will drop by around 3:45 to talk to folks about my amendment to return the surplus money to the taxpayer. He may even want to talk to some of my customers. He may ask them "If you were over charged at this pharmacy, wouldn't you expect Kevin to give your money back?" I'm sure the answer will be yes from every customer. Wednesday, I asked the same question to my colleagues in the Senate. Should the taxpayer get a refund since they have been over charged? Only 9 other members voted with me, so unfortunately, the Governor has only a few stops today. And the people's government refuses to give them what is rightfully theres...their money!

By the way, it is wonderful to be back in Anderson. It is much more down to earth that Columbia where common sense is not very common.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

bryant on politics rocks!

Michael Reese has added a feature to his blog "sports and politics" titled "politics rocks". He was kind enough to feature an interview with me in his debut. The 5 minute interview is mainly about the capital punishment sentencing amendment that I offered to Jessica's Law last month. Click here:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

$125 tax rebate tabled

I offered a motion to take the surplus money, pay off the trust funds, then return all of the money to the taxpayer. Unfortunately, only 10 members of the SC Senate voted against the tabling motion: Campsen, Courson, Cromer, Grooms, Hawkins, Knotts, Peeler, Ryberg, Verdin, & myself.

This amendment if passed would send $250 million back to the over charged taxpayer. Every taxpayer would get $125 back. That's $250 per couple. That's $5.4 million per senate district.

This budget grows government by 28% over the level of just three years ago. It is clear that government can never have enough money to spend, so all I'm saying is this year let's give the extra money, just the extra money, back to the people who earn it. With this budget, we are telling taxpayers that if they send it, we will spend it.

Perhaps these taxpayers will have used their rebate to pay their property taxes, make an extra house payment, take a long weekend vacation, buy the car a new set of tires. I have asked many constituents this question: do you want me to spend your money in Columbia or return it. 100% of my constituents have told me the same thing. I want MY money back.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of mcolleagueses disagree.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Proviso could save medicaid millions! it was tabled

I introduced this proviso, yet it was tabled with only 8 members with me. -As a pharmacist, I witness wasted taxpayer money on prescription drugs on a daily basis. I would like to apply my 20 years of experience in pharmacy to offer solutions to the ever-climbing healthcare costs in the Palmetto State. Currently, Medicaid has a process called prior authorization or PA. This process is applied to some medications. In these situations, generic alternatives must be used first, and in the instance that the generic drug does not work; the more expensive medication may be dispensed. In no way is quality of care in jeopardy. If a consumer is paying cash for a product, naturally, they will try the least expensive option first. When the taxpayer is required to pay for medications covered by Medicaid, I believe we should take the same approach.

Prior Authorization is applied to many life threatening therapeutic classes with little or no problems, yet with exponential savings of the taxpayers' money. We apply the PA's to medications treating diabetes, blood pressure, esophageal reflux, and many, many more. Medicaid has 3 therapeutic classes that are exempt from prior authorization: HIV, Oncology (cancer), and mental health.My amendment removes these classes from exemption. I doubt if we'll see much money saved on oncology or HIV drugs in the near future, yet I am confident that there is much room for savings in the mental health area. Also, we spent $600 million on mental health drugs in 2005 on Medicaid. Two drugs Risperdal & Zyprexa cost us $49 million.

For example, Zyprexa can cost up to $1200 per month. If Zyprexa was placed on PA, a generic alternative such as haloperidol may be used. Haloperidol costs less than a $100 per month. If the patient does not tolerate haloperidol, then Zyprexa may be dispensed. This process would not be applied to a patient on a maintenance regimen with stable results, only new diagnoses.

This proviso does not place any medication on Prior Authorization; it allows Medicaid more options. The Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee makes these determinations. Here's a link to their website:

We don't have an unlimited amount of funds for our Medicaid recipients and I am confident that this proviso will free up scarce Medicaid dollars for areas of need.

$1 for property tax relief tabled

Sen. Jake Knotts offered an amendment to provide $1 for property tax relief. What this amendment does is get it up for discussion should the budget get to conference committee. The House budget called for $116 million in property tax relief, yet the Senate budget calls for none. This amendment will get us some room for discussion in conference committee. The amendment was tabled. Now the conference committee can either put in $116 million or nothing.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

property tax recorded votes

There has been much discussion from all parts of the state for a list of the votes taken this week on property taxes. The link below gets you to the journals of the Senate. The roll call votes on April 18 & 19 are tabling votes. "Aye" votes are actually against property tax relief and "nay" votes are in favor of property tax relief. I voted "nay" on every vote.
-Grooms I tabling motion was the 1st vote on April 18th
-House Plan tabling motion was the 2nd vote on April 18th
-House Plan tabling motion was the 1st vote on April 19th
-Grooms II tabling motion was the 2nd vote on April 19th
-Grooms II tabling motion was the 3rd vote on April 19th
-House Plan II tabling motion was the only vote on April 20th

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

meaningful property tax reform dies in the Senate

Although I have supported every effort to slash your property taxes, they have all failed. Once again proponents of reform have lost yet another battle in the "deliberative" body of the SC General Assembly. We now have a last gasp on property tax reform. This allows for a local option to remove operating expenses from your property tax bill by local government. The author, Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) has voted in favor of all of the meaningful reform proposals.
Local Option Property Tax Relief Act
Part 1
- School Operations Relief for Primary Residences, Business Personal and Other Personal Property
-Permits a county-by-county referendum on property tax relief for school operations on primary residences, business personal and other personal property.
-Counties could opt-in to just enough county-wide increase in the sales tax to provide this relief for primary residences, business personal and other personal property (see attached sheet for how much sales tax would be required in each county)
-Either County Council or 7% of electorate by petition initiative can put the Local Option Property Tax Relief measure on the November ballot
-Would eliminate approximately 50% of total property taxes on primary residences business personal and other personal property (statewide average is 49.3% - each county will vary)
-Sales tax revenue considered a part of local maintenance of effort

Part 2 - Statewide Tax Relief from a ¼ Cent Increase to the Statewide Sales Tax
-Circuit Breaker Income Tax Credit when property tax on primary residence exceeds 5% of income - 100% refundable tax credit for households at or below the median household income in SC & 50% refundable tax credit for households above the median household income
-Income Tax Credit equal to 4% of total property tax paid on commercial/rental property
-Does not affect school funding formulas

Part 3 - Other Provisions
-Quarterly property tax payment
-New property on tax roles sooner
-Local millage cap to protect business
-Rolling reserve fund in school districts to cushion volatility in sales tax revenue
-BEA balanced

House plan tabled, now Grooms II

The house proposal has been tabled, therefore, we are now on another proposal by Sen. Larry Grooms. Keep in mind that there will be winners and losers in all property tax reform proposals. When the homeowner is the winner, I’m all ears!
Groom Broom II
Below are the highlights:
All state funds go directly to local school districts then they fund state department as they see fit. Instead of local schools begging for money, the State Department would have to beg the districts for money.
Establishes the School Trust Fund and distributes its proceeds to all school districts on a weighted pupil basis. Removes Local School Operation Property Taxes off all classes of property except for school districts eligible for the hold harmless provision of this amendment.
Substitution taxes for local school operation taxes are derived from:-2 cent increase in the state sales and use tax-Deed recording fee increase equal to the existing deed recording fee-Redirects inventory tax and manufacturer’s depreciation tax reimbursements to the School Trust Fund-Creates statewide property tax of 75 mills for all classes of property except owner occupied homes

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Grooms plan tabled, Senate will debate House plan

I voted in favor of the The Groom Broom yet it was tabled, therefore, we will now examine the House plan. The motion to table the house plan came to a tie and the Lt. Governor cast "no" to table. The Senate is now debating the House plan. This plan increases sales taxes to 7% and totally eliminates property taxes from owner occupied homes (primary residences) except for school bond indebtedness. This bill will remove a large majority of your property taxes on your home. Does this bill create problems? Absolutely, but we'll do our best to resolve the problems. The benefits far outweigh the shortcomings. You will own your home, not rent from the government.

What's good about the House plan:
-eliminates just about all of the taxes on owner occupied homes
-exempts accommodations tax increase and food tax increase

What's bad about the House plan:
-business property tax remains
-car taxes remain
-distribution will have winners and losers

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sweeping Tax Reform by Sen. Grooms

Today, Sen. Larry Grooms offered a plan with sweeping property tax reforms. I call it the Groom Broom. Keep in mind that there will be winners and losers in all property tax reform proposals. When the homeowner is the winner, I all ears!

Below are the highlights
Establishes the School Trust Fund and distributes its proceeds to all school districts on a weighted pupil basis.

Provides a circuit-breaker tax credit for property taxes paid in excess of 2% of the adjusted gross household income for homestead eligible owner occupied homes.

Removes Local School Operation Property Taxes off all classes of property except for school districts eligible for the hold harmless provision of this amendment.

Hold harmless provision allows school districts which would receive less revenue under this plan to collect a local property tax for the deficit amount on all classes of property except for owner occupied homes for an amount not to exceed the prior years total state and local revenues adjusted by a growth factor as determined by the BEA.

Redirects EIA and EFA funding sources into the School Trust Fund and directs additional revenue generated by the local school tax substitution into the School Trust Fund.

Substitution taxes for local school operation taxes are derived from:
-2-cent increase in the state sales and use tax.
-Surtax on beer, wine, alcoholic liquors equal to the existing surtax.
-Cigarette tax increase of $0.93 cents per pack.
-Deed recording fee increase equal to the existing deed recording fee.
-Redirects inventory tax and manufacturer’s depreciation tax reimbursements to the School Trust Fund.
-Increases sales tax cap on automobiles to $900.
-Creates statewide property tax of 42 mills for all classes of property except owner occupied homes.

Removes a limited number of specific sales tax exemptions which include:
-Newsprint paper and newspapers.
-Direct mail promotional advertising and postage used for advertising services.
-Charges for telegraph messages, carrier access and access line charges established by FCC and SC PSC.
-Supplies used for consumption aboard ships in intercoastal trade or foreign commerce.
-Bags, wrapping paper, containers used in the sale of a product.
-Supplies, technical equipment and machinery sold to radio, cable and television stations.
-Motion picture film sold to or rented by theaters.
-Railroad cars, locomotives and monorails; engines and parts used to propel them.
-Vehicle extended service contracts and warranties.Clothing used in Class 100 clean air environments.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

House Plan Tabled, now Local Option

The house plan that removed school operating expenses from homes, but did nothing for commercial, was tabled to day. They only reform that has a chance to pass is the Local Option. This will allow County Councils to give the voters of each county the choice of a sales tax increase to offset property taxes on homes. Currently, the plan only involves school operating expenses and does not include commercial property.

There is one good aspect of the local option: Anderson County can fund school operation with a .9¢ sales tax. There are additional amendments that will be considered, to tweak this plan. Ever heard of the legislation process compared to the making of sausage? Stay tuned!

property tax warning 1 and 2

There are 2 very important things to remember:
1-You will continue to get a property tax bill on your home. All of the proposals only eliminate the school operating expense in exchange for an increase in sales taxes. The school operating expense is the lion’s share of your tax bill. You will continue to be taxed to fund local government and bonded indebtedness. Since local governments and school bond indebtedness are so vastly different in each county and school district, it is virtually impossible to create a distribution formula from the state level.

2-What will prevent an increase in the remaining property taxes? This is my biggest fear. 20 years from now, will the remaining property taxes creep back up? Then we have high property taxes and high sales taxes. There are some millage caps and assessment caps, but will these be enough? There is very little effort to slow down the ever increasing appetite for spending from government at all levels.

Stay tuned.

Property Tax Reform

Well, it’s property tax week in the Senate. At this point, it may be helpful to discuss exactly what we’ll be voting on and exactly what we won’t be voting on. As most of you know, the Senate rejected the House plan out of hand.
The House bill morphed, however, into one full cent added to the sales tax in return for the elimination of school operating taxes on owner-occupied homes valued at up to $180,000. The bill removes of that same property tax on most (not all) cars and, finally, a circuit breaker. The circuit breaker does this: It prevents anyone from paying more than 5% of their gross household income, as defined on their federal tax return, in property tax on their primary residence.

We’ll see plenty of amendments to the bill over the next few days, and I’ll vote for the ones that actually reduce property tax. I won’t vote for ones that perform a bait and switch, that is remove property tax in favor of a new tax that actually increases your overall burden. An example of this would be an open-ended plan to bring school funding to the state level without a defined method of redistribution. Such a plan might actually increase your tax burden if the redistribution plan turned out to require more money than taxpayers currently pay for school operations.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

s. 1205 right to farm act

Today's debate is on s. 1205 commonly known as "The Right to Farm Act" sponsored by Sen. Larry Grooms. Basically this bill calls for statewide regulation of agriculture instead of the current system. At this time, there is a mixture of local, state, & federal agencies regulating agriculture. Since only federal & state agencies have the resources for science-based standards, this proposal is good for agriculture, development, environmental, & economic concerns.
Interestingly, s. 1205 has support from across the state and across the aisle. Cosponsors are: Verdin (R- Laurens), Hutto (D-Orangeburg), Peeler (R-Cherokee), Williams (D-Marion), Land (D-Clarendon), Bryant (R-Anderson), O'Dell (R-Abbeville), Jackson (D-Richland), Cromer (R-Newberry), Ford (D-Charleston), Knotts (R-Lexington), Setzler (R-Lexington)

Monday, April 03, 2006

SC Leadership endorse Amended Jessica's Law

Governor Mark Sanford, Attorney General Henry McMaster, Rep. Jim Harrison (SC House Judiciary Committee Chairman) endorse the Senate Version of Jessica's Law. Gov. Sanford held a press conference in the Statehouse this morning. I expect Jessica's Law to get quick passage in the house, then the Governor's signature shortly. I look forward to the day when we can say that SC leads the nation in punishing crimes on our precious children.