Commission wants tax hikes on utilities, groceries 

Reform means sales tax stampede

When the state legislature created the Tax Realignment Commission to analyze existing tax programs and possible reforms, it was assumed that they would tackle archaic exemptions in state law.

It now appears likely that the group was created to provide cover for sweeping sales tax increases for a variety of basic goods and services.

The commission voted last week to put a 1.25 percent tax on prescription medication. Medicaid and Medicare recipients would be exempt, and everyone else's taxes on drugs would be capped at $100.

Electric, gas, and water bills would also be taxed at 1.25 percent. Groceries, which have been tax exempt for only two years, would see a new 2.95 percent tax rate while lowering the state sales tax on everything else from 6 percent to 5 percent.

The TRAC recommendations will go to state lawmakers for possible action next year. Charleston Rep. Leon Stavrinakis said he would fight the proposed changes "tooth and nail."

"We need to be talking about spending reforms to make better use of existing tax dollars, not new tax increases," he said in a statement. "Our first priority is to spend responsibly and bring prosperity back to South Carolina."


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