NEWS SHORTS 

"While the House is willing to take great strides to achieveproperty tax relief, the Senate seems determined to takeOompa-Loompa steps."

Political correctness isn't alive or well in Columbia as House Majority Leader Jim Merrill (R-Daniel Island) comments on the collapse of the General Assembly tax relief bill last Thursday. A resolution on the bill was hammered out Friday, despite the alleged vertically-challenged Senators.

Columbia Week in Review ·
All goings-on in Columbia this week surrounded the tax relief plan that has been in the works for months. Reportedly, House and Senate lawmakers scratched out a resolution on the back of a greasy chicken takeout box. You don't get more South Cakalaky than that!

The plan will provide homeowners with $570 million in property tax relief. Lawmakers accomplished the deal by increasing the state sales tax a penny to six cents on the dollar and commandeering some surplus revenue. The plan also grants local governments the ability to levy additional sales tax to further offset property taxes. This proposal may be popular in Charleston, where property taxes rose 48 percent last year, and most of the sales tax is borne by the city's booming tourism.

The more pricey your home, the more relief you should expect to receive, with some seeing an almost 50 percent tax break. To compensate for the socioeconomic disparity, the Legislature added certain provisions, including a small tax break for homeowners on "county operations," a reduction of groceries taxes from five cents to three cents starting Oct. 1, and a one-time sales tax holiday for the two days after Thanksgiving that applies to all purchases. This last provision is sure to make retailers' black Friday even blacker. The cost of these perks will come from the estimated $280 million surplus state revenues.

Money from the property tax deal will be distributed to the state's schools equitably, with every district receiving the same amount they currently spend and no county receiving less than $2.5 million.

Not everyone is happy with the bill, however. Chamber Watch, the Grassroots Action Center of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, sent out a press release containing A LOT OF SCREAMING TEXT. The organization is upset because, as a provision of the tax plan, the loophole allowing districts to use alternative financing for school construction projects has been eliminated. Chamber Watch claims that the provision will stop the construction of already approved new schools in Mt. Pleasant as well as the construction of replacement facilities — including Sanders-Clyde Elementary downtown and the Academic Magnet. —Elle Lien


21

That's the number of days you have left to get your smoke on inside any Sullivan's Island bars. The Sullivan's Island City Council voted to approve the smoking ban May 16. The ordinance will be finalized June 20.

"Traditional marriage is now under attack. That's why I support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman."

Sen. Lindsey Graham on the Senate Judiciary Committee vote for the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, May 18. Source: www.lgraham.senate.gov

$30 million, 20 years, 120 acres

This is the amount of money, time, and area planned to be included in the Noisette Creek Preserve project. The Michaux Conservancy, along with the city of North Charleston, Clemson University's Restoration Institute, and various environmental and nonprofit groups, is working to restore the wetlands preserve. Source: Noisette Foundation

531 lbs.

This was the amount of smog-forming pollution produced by one South Carolina school bus in 2005. The state was ranked dead last in the nation in the Union of Concerned Scientists' recent school bus pollution report. In a rare piece of positive S.C. education news, our fourth graders had the best gains in the nation in science, while eighth graders finished third. Source: www.ucsusa.org, www.nea.org

Balls-to-the Wall Bauer ·
Our high-flying, fast-driving Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has made news again with his daredevil antics. Last Tuesday, May 23, Bauer was piloting a plane from a rural upstate airport when he crashed during takeoff. Bauer and passenger John Leonhardt escaped the wreckage with minor injuries that were treated at Greenville's Memorial Hospital.

Now released from the hospital, Bauer is in the midst of a battle to defend his Lt. Gov. seat from primary opponent Mike Campbell. The winner of the race will face Democratic Lt. Gov. hopeful and Bowens Island restaurant owner Robert Barber.

Of the crash, Bauer says, "I am thankful for a merciful Lord, who for some reason, has seen fit for this humbled servant to continue his journey on this earth."

Current Lt. Gov. Bauer is no stranger to danger. He has been pulled over by highway patrol twice in the last few months, clocked at speeds exceeding 100 mph. He was not ticketed in either case. Patrolmen backed off when Bauer identified himself as "S.C. #2." And who does number two work for? Voters will decide June 13. —EL



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