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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Senator Wes Hayes To Have Town Hall Meeting on February 7

Senator Wes Hayes will hold his next public meeting  on Monday, February 7th, 2011 at 7:00 PM at Fewell Park. click here for link to directions and maps.  Senator Hayes has been a long time friend to education in South Carolina and has many realistic insights on what will happen during the General Assembly. This is a good meeting to attend to stay informed. You can get a copy of his spring newsletter by clicking here. Below is what he says about two topics of interest in the newsletter.

REFORMING K-12 EDUCATION FUNDING. During the Fall of 2010, I chaired the Select Committee on K-12 Funding, whose purpose was to consider changes to how K-12 funds are distributed. Our goal was to develop a revenue-neutral funding distribution method that increases funding for impoverished students, students with a limited English proficiency, students in gifted and talented programs, students not meeting state standards, and that recognizes the need to fund basic district operational and fixed costs. In proposing legislation to accomplish these objectives, the Committee focused on the following topics: (1) flexibility and transparency (provide districts with the flexibility to transfer and expend funds from designated revenue sources and require an online check registry to address transparency concerns); (2) deregulation (require the State Board of Education to develop regulations establishing a process for districts to apply for deregulation); (3) 4K (make available statewide for certain at-risk children based on poverty levels); (4) teacher pay (update the statewide minimum salary schedule by resetting the index to the Fiscal Year 2009 level and require the Board of Education to develop regulations creating a framework for an optional teacher incentive compensation program); (5) district consolidation incentives (provide temporary funding to address funding gaps during a consolidation transition period, such as bringing all teachers up to the higher district salary level; (6) the SC Public Charter School District (address additional funding requests and distinguish between brick-and-mortar and virtual schools); and (7) replacing the Education Finance Act with a simpler system where the money follows the child.
TAXATION REALIGNMENT COMMISSION’S (TRAC) REPORT. In 2009, the General Assembly established the TRAC to thoroughly assess the State’s current tax structure. The Commission met 17 times and concluded its work in October 2010. The Commission found that South Carolina is a low tax state, as compared to its neighboring states, but its tax structure is hindered by structural deficiencies that will continue to challenge the system’s ability to produce stable revenues over time. The Commission recommended that the General Assembly expand the state’s sales tax base but lower the overall tax rate to 5%. To expand the taxable base, the Commission recommended the General Assembly repeal or modify approximately 60 of the current sales tax exemptions. For example, the Commission recommended that sales tax be imposed on groceries at a 2.95% rate (except the exemption should remain if purchased with food stamps), water and electricity at a 1.25% rate, prescription drugs at a 1.25% rate and capped at $100 annually (except that the exemption would remain intact for Medicaid/Medicare beneficiaries, cancer drugs, free medicine samples, and medicines sold to free clinics). The Commission also recommended eliminating the exemption for automobiles with dealer tags, phasing out the sales tax cap on purchases of motor vehicles, and aggressively pursuing sales/use tax on internet purchases. The Commission also suggested other changes to the State’s tax structure. The Commission’s full report can be viewed online at the following link: The General Assembly is not obligated to introduce the TRAC’s recommendations as legislation.

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