Eighteen years ago, South Carolina voters entrusted the House Republicans with control of the S.C. House of Representatives. And for the last 18 years, the House Republican Caucus Agenda has been the starting point for much of our state’s most significant reforms.
Our agenda has included property tax reform, tort reform, campaign finance reform, the creation of charter schools, illegal immigration reform and workers’ compensation reform, among many others.
Last year, we unveiled an agenda that we expected to take two years to complete. As it turned out, we were able to complete it in 19 Wednesdays, or “Wicked Wednesdays” as the Democrats called them. This year, we’re tackling a smaller number of bigger, systemic reforms critical to the future of our state.
The top item on this year’s Caucus agenda is systemic tax reform. I chaired a Caucus tax study committee last fall and legislation from that committee will be introduced in the next few weeks. The committee focused on creating a fairer tax code and examined each of the sales tax exemptions on their merit. It then looked across the tax code for ways we could be fairer to taxpayers and stimulate the economy.
The legislation being written will eliminate nearly two-thirds of the special interest sales tax exemptions, flatten income taxes, lower the sales tax, reform property taxes, and lower burdensome taxes on small businesses.
One agenda item was completed this week with approval of the Right to Work Act. This legislation was filed last month by Chairman Bill Sandifer, identified more than a half-dozen places where our Right to Work Act could be strengthened to protect our workers, and protect individual liberty. The bill was pre-filed with the entire Republican Caucus signed on as co-sponsors.
Every South Carolinian should have the right to work and make a living for his or her family without being forced to join a union or pay dues. Union participation should be a matter of choice for any worker, but our workers must be protected from undue coercion or influence by unions or businesses.
The current Administration in Washington is engaged in a direct assault on private businesses locating in our state, as evidenced by action against Boeing and its threats of a lawsuit because we protected our workers’ right to a secret ballot. I’m proud that we got that bill through the House and on to the Senate.
The next item on the agenda is shoring up the state retirement system, which threatens not only tens of thousands of state retirees and their families, but also threatens the wallets of millions of taxpayers.
Several members of the Caucus sat on an ad-hoc committee, chaired by former House Majority Leader Jim Merrill, that searched for solutions to the retirement system problem. The state retirement system faces a major unfunded liability problem, and the extent of that problem depends on who is calculating the numbers.
What is clear is this: We made a promise to state employees and many of them understand we must make major changes to the system to keep it solvent. We also have a responsibility to the taxpayers to ensure the retirement system doesn’t bust the state budget for years to come. We are nearing completion of a plan that will fulfill our promises, and it will require sacrifice from everyone.
The House GOP also wants to cement the First in the South Primary status for both parties – a position that gives our state a uniquely strong position in selecting the eventual Republican and Democrat nominee for President.
Finally, the House Republicans will push the Senate to approve the 14 items from our 2011 agenda in that body.
If the Senate acts, we still have time to approve 14 items that we sent to the Senate last year. Included in these are important reforms for conservatives: a state spending limit, shortening the legislative session, reforming how bureaucratic regulations are created, creating a Department of Administration, and critical new pro-life protections. Republicans across the state urge the Senate Republicans to break the logjams and pass these items quickly.