Gov. Henry McMaster and Republicans in the state House want to cut income tax by a whopping $ 600 million each year and up to $ 1 billion a year over five years. Senate key leader Harvey Piller, R-Cherokee, says he wants even more – a $ 900 million cut plus a one-time $ 1 billion discount.
But these efforts just smell, especially in light of the election, which will take place in just a few months. What is even more worrying is that no one seems to think about the long-term consequences of taking billions from the state treasury when persistent priorities, such as a poor education system in South Carolina, continue to be lacking.
In 10 years, tax cuts of this size will lead to the removal of about $ 8 billion from the state budget. Not sure how much it really is? Think of it in the millions. That’s the equivalent of 8,000 packs of one-dollar bills combined into a million. That’s four times more than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to spend on the most expensive one-time construction in Charleston’s long history – building a huge new dam around the entire peninsula. Can we really afford to spend less on the real needs of a poor state that has been underinvesting in public education for generations?
South Carolina has always ranked first nationally in providing high-quality K-12 education. Of course, some metropolitan areas have the pockets of good schools, but in general this state does not offer a broad, first-class education system that would be envied anywhere.
In fact, we are barely keeping up because we continue to do what we have always done – insufficient investment to live, which supports the heritage of the state plantation culture. Don’t you believe? Guess which state underfunded public education by $ 4.4 billion between 2010 and 2018 without complying with the state’s own law to provide enough money to pay the required costs for students?
The only way out of the educational ditch we’ve been digging since the 1800s is to start investing at a faster rate so we can catch up with other states, including North Carolina and Georgia, that continue to invest more to enable our students to they could succeed in the economy of the 21st century.
So think about the consequences of taking $ 1 million about 8,000 times from the state treasury in 10 years. If we invest that kind of money in public education, we can build 200 new schools worth $ 40 million, such as the Harbor View Elementary on James Island, which will serve 100,000 South Carolina students. Or we could start paying our invaluable teachers much better rather than just striving for averages. Or we could dig other holes with insufficient investment in health care, prisons, roads, bridges or floods.
Let’s stop feeding at the bottom of politics. Let’s not continue to lose our children because of the education system that supports them. Let’s not continue to lose opportunities for new industries because world-class talent doesn’t want to move here thanks to our schools. Let’s discard shiny balls, such as income tax cuts, and pay attention to what’s really important – moving forward South Carolina.
For several generations, South Carolina has had inappropriate priorities. The General Assembly needs to unite and make solid, steady, large investments in public education. There are still rainy days ahead. Lawmakers need to think strategically about our taxes, for a change, instead of playing with our next generation for suckers.