Sunday, June 3, 2007

In layman's terms

You are in the cashier's lane at Wal-Mart. You have a few items which you regularly purchase and you watch the cashier ring up the sale. She overcharges you. You ask her to check the total - she re-figures - admitting to overcharging you, but she remains insistent that you overpay for the goods/services that you bought.

Reality Check: South Carolina has overcharged and over-collected from the taxpayers to the tune of $1.5 Billion - the amount over and above the expected revenue amount used to calculate and spend in last year's budget. It is called a "Budget Surplus" but in reality it is an amount that was collected over and above the needs of the state.

In real numbers it looks like $1,500,000,000. As my colleague Rep. Walt McLeod says: that's a lot of dough!

South Carolinians that are paying attention are asking for a refund of the overcharges.

Now, I don't think that South Carolinians mind a reasonable growth of government - mirroring the growth of the state's population and it's thirst for services from state government. Nor do I think that most South Carolinians really mind seeing the state spend money fixing roads and bridges or investing in the state's port, a jewel in the state's crown in my opinion. That is common-sense stuff. I don't, however, believe that the taxpayers want to see Columbia spend all of the money they were overtaxed.

The Budget Conference Committee is arguring over a $170 million tax cut (income tax and groceries). Let's see - out of $1.5 BILLION that amounts to 11% plus or minus returned to the taxpayer - while 89% or $1.3 BILLION is still spent.

We could and should do more to limit government's growth and return some of this hard-earned money to the taxpayer. We are setting ourselves up for a fall (really a fall in many forms). Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

For me, it comes down to one basic question of "What is the proper role of government and the government's use of taxpayer dollars?"