South Carolina raised its sales tax a quarter century ago in the name of improving education … to no avail.  Despite record funding hikes, public schools in the Palmetto State are actually getting worse.  Now legislative leaders, including powerful Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (RINO-Florence), are looking to raise the state sales tax again – this time in the name of improving infrastructure.

A proposal to raise South Carolina’s statewide sales tax by one cent (or by 16.7 percent) will be pushed for during the 2013 session of the S.C. General Assembly, sources tell FITS.  And while we’re not sure which special interests will be orchestrating the lobbying effort in support of the measure just yet, we’re told by lawmakers that the proposal has “powerful support.”

Surprise, surprise … right?

South Carolina has a statewide sales tax of six percent – which is already higher than the sales tax rates in neighboring North Carolina (4.75 percent) and Georgia (4 percent).  Local sales tax rates push the rate even higher (up to 9 percent in parts of Horry County).  Of course lawmakers do provide various special interest exemptions to those who do their bidding – a process that we’ve demonstrated is infinitely corruptible.

The recent history of sales tax hikes in South Carolina has been hugely controversial.  For example federal investigators continue to probe the “Coastal Kickback” – a flagrant “pay-to-play” scam in which a powerful special interest in Myrtle Beach, S.C. funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions to local lawmakers in support of a local sales tax increase.

Of course this scam – as brazen as it was – has absolutely nothing on the shameful fiasco that befell Richland County last week.  In what could easily wind up being the single worst instance of government corruption we’ve ever seen in this state (which trust us … is saying something), county leaders appear to have engaged in a deliberate effort to suppress voter turnout in parts of the county that voted overwhelmingly to oppose a sales tax hike in 2010.

How did they do that?  By breaking a state law regarding the placement of voting machines in precincts – forcing voters in anti-tax districts to endure wait times ranging as long as four to seven hours.  Not surprisingly hundreds – if not thousands of these voters – could not afford to wait that long to vote.

Could we see a repeat of these tactics on a statewide level?

This website has made it clear that our state needs to find ways to lower – not expand – its tax burden.  In fact we’ve argued repeatedly on behalf of income tax relief – a reform which has proven successful when it comes to creating jobs, raising income levels and stimulating economic activity.

Also, as it relates to the “purpose” of this proposed tax hike – our state wouldn’t have an “infrastructure” problem if its leaders would simply stop funneling money into pointless pork projects (here and here).