Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shall we invest in children, or pay business to hire workers?

That's the choice being described in today's The State, as lawmakers get back to work on the $5.8 billion budget plan -- the plan that is supposed to become effective July 1.

The State explains:

The Senate budget would split money added by growth in the state's economy -- with $100 million paying for business tax relief and $105 million paying for K-12 education.

House members want $150 million in tax relief for businesses. Their insurance rates rose to start repaying almost $1 billion in federal loans that the state had to take out in order to continue paying unemployment benefits after the state's unemployment insurance fund went broke in 2008. For some companies, taxes increased by as much as 600 percent per employee, and companies have said the tax hike might cause them to delay hiring.

Debt from poor legislative choices -- or was it former Governor Mark Sanford's decisions that led to the depletion of the unemployment insurance fund? -- now leave the state's children in want, with lawmakers mulling over whether to give them half-loaf or a quarter-loaf.

It is as it has been for all of South Carolina's generations: Our decisionmakers see the needs but find all manner of competing interests to drain the treasury before getting to the question of giving every child access to a quality education.

Who wins? That's been the same for generations, too.

State Rep. Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, the House's top budget writer, says the debate over spending on education or tax relief is the biggest remaining issue. An agreement could be worked out this week, he added.

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