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The Road to Less Potholes

Added on: April 7, 2017

Congested roads, bumps, humps, clanks, accidents; these are the daily occurrences driving the roads of South Carolina. The roads, and debate of funds for the roads, have become a nationally recognized issue. Even the chairman of Michelin North America has gone on record stating that South Carolina roads are a disgrace. South Carolina has the fourth most maintained road mileage in the nation. Coupled with not raising the gas tax in the last thirty year, and a larger than expected growth in population, it is easy to see why our state’s infrastructure is crumbling. The dangers of our roads, along with distracted driving, now has South Carolina ranked number one in the nation for traffic fatality rate.  

So what happens now, how do we dig out of this hole before it begins to effect the ever growing business migration into South Carolina? This year the South Carolina House of Representatives introduced House Bill 3516, the SC Infrastructure and Economic Development Reform Act. In the bill’s current amended state, the proposed legislation will raise the gas tax two cents per year for the next six years for a total of twelve cents per gallon by 2022. In addition the new automobile purchase fee would be raised to five percent, but no more than five hundred dollars. Also, to maintain an even playing field for South Carolina’s auto dealers, a two hundred and fifty dollar fee would be applied to any vehicle registered in South Carolina that was purchased outside of the state.

In order for this state, and our local community, to continue to economically thrive our state’s infrastructure desperately requires a very serious upgrade. Upgrades that can only take place with an introduction of money that is earmarked especially for roads, bridges, and traffic safety. The time has come to demand that our representatives embrace raising the gas tax in order to provide a safer environment, a higher quality of life, and to keep the supply of businesses who are willing to relocate to South Carolina.

What is the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act (H3650 and H3651)?

Added on: April 7, 2017

By now it should not be a secret that your chamber has openly opposed H3650 and its sister bill H3651. In order to give you a better sense of why we became vocal and took action to keep small businesses in Greer viable and sustainable entities, you will need to know some key components and history of this proposed legislation.

In the beginning several key interest groups lobbied for a more streamlined, easier approach to pay business license fees throughout the state. Each municipality sets its own due date time table and classifications, a process that can become very cumbersome on small businesses who operate and do business throughout the state in a large number of cities. To ease the burden of the businesses, a common date, classification, and online payment portal would need to be formed.

In February Representative Bill Sandifer of Seneca proposed a bill, H3650, that included key components previously mentioned. However, his bill also included several factors that turned the once resolving legislation into a bill that flipped the financial burden around to small businesses and local municipalities. H3650 proposed that the Secretary of State collect the monies owed to each municipality. The bill does not state at what point the Secretary of State would disperse the money, and at what fee to the municipality. This of course would dip into funds collected by each local government. In addition to the way money is collected, H3650 introduces eleven exemptions to the bill. These exemptions range from lower rates for funeral homes, Representative Sandifer is a funeral home business owner, to exemptions for businesses who perform work inside the city, but do not reside in the city.

Recently the Public Policy Committee and the Executive Board hosted conversations with Ed Driggers, City of Greer Administrator. Mr. Driggers and his staff were one of the first municipalities to dive into the economic impact of H3650. In compiling the financial impact of our community, Mr. Driggers found that eighty-four percent of Greer’s small businesses would be impacted by the legislation. There are one of two ways to make up for the impact, raise fees or lower quality of life services in the city.

H3651 is a bill that would eliminate the ability of the Municipal Association of South Carolina to gather revenue from utility companies. The MASC currently has a staff that does nothing more than regulate and take payments from companies such as Duke Power, CPW, etc. If H3651 were to pass, the City of Greer would have to hire three employees to provide the work that MASC is currently performing. Again, this only adds more cost, and less the city can provide just to meet the current level of service.

Given that the bill pushes so much of the burden on to the small business owners of Greer, your Public Policy and Executive Committee voted unanimously to oppose the exemptions and the collection portion of the bill. As a body who looks out for the best interest of its constituents, we cannot simply stand by idly while the vast majority of our community suffers.

Misconceptions on the "Ex-Im" Bank

Added on: September 9, 2014

By Jason Zacher VP, Public Policy Greenville Chamber of Commerce

I’m switching up blog posts this week to interject some information about a Federal issue of critical importance to the Upstate economy. Last week, I wrote that we would talk about how to help pro-business candidates in this election.

I’ll cover that next week because Congress is back in session, and for many Chambers of Commerce, attention turns to the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (or “Ex-Im” as you may have heard). This is a major topic of discussion on the agenda today in Washington at our Upstate Chamber Coalition National Issues Forum.

Our two largest Upstate Chamber Coalition members have come out in support of the Ex-Im Bank – Greenville and Spartanburg. In the Upstate, we have a lot of economic activity tied to exports. Nearly 2,500 jobs and $385 million in exports are tied to the Ex-Im Bank in the Third and Fourth Congressional Districts. Critics decry the bank as more corporate welfare, but 85 percent of the bank’s investments are in small business. In the Upstate, most of the bank’s activity comes from smaller manufacturers.

You can find out more about what businesses are supported by the Ex-Im Bank right here at home (listed by S.C. Congressional District) by clicking here.

As a Chamber of Commerce, we are 1,000 percent behind the concept of the free market, the invisible hand, and capitalism. However, international reality dictates a more pragmatic approach. The international free market isn’t really free, and China, Germany, the United Kingdom, India, and most of our major trading competitors help finance their exports at a much higher level than we do.

Let’s take a look at a few of the myths versus the facts on the Ex-Im Bank as Congress gets ready to start the debate:

MYTH: Ex-Im Puts Taxpayers at Risk FACT: Since 1934, fewer than 2 percent of Ex-Im loans have defaulted. The Ex-Im Bank poses none of the risks to taxpayers that the government-sponsored enterprises in the housing sector did during the last decade.

MYTH: Ex-Im is Corporate Welfare FACT: In 2012 and 2013, the Ex-Im Bank returned more than $1 Billion each year to the U.S. Treasury, and since 1990 has returned $7 Billion more than it received in appropriations. Providing export assistance to American companies is not costing the taxpayer a dime.

The Ex-Im Bank works by providing credit to foreign customers so they can buy American exports and covers critical gaps in international financing. Many of these loans go to customers in developing countries where there may not be commercial financing.

MYTH: It doesn’t matter if Ex-Im is not reauthorized FACT: Hundreds of thousands of jobs, and as many as 8,000 jobs in our state, are at risk. The Bank was last reauthorized in 2012 by overwhelming bipartisan votes in both chambers of Congress. Since that time, the Bank has more public oversight and is far more transparent than it was through much of its history.

In 2012, Germany and France offered twice as much export support, China and India offered three times, and South Korea offered 10 times the amount of export support as we do. If we don’t reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, it will be a big windfall to our foreign competitors.

We hope the House and the Senate will reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank before the current authorization expires at the end of the month. We also applaud Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott for voicing their support of the Bank this time around.

If you’d like to voice your support for the Bank, please click here and find more resources.

As always, if you’re a member of the Upstate Chamber Coalition, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about public policy and elections.


Get Educated about the Election

Added on: September 8, 2014

With Labor Day behind us, political campaigns from school board to Congress are heating up. That means this is a critical time for your business.

You may think that your business is insulated from the machinations of the political process, but you couldn’t be more wrong. “I can’t worry about that,” you say, “I’m more concerned about meeting payroll this Friday.” Fair enough – I understand that. But if the political events of the past 5 years don’t jolt you to action, you should spend a little time thinking back.

Since 2009, events have occurred that should bring every business leader out crusading for pro-business candidates at all levels. Remember South Carolina’s unemployment insurance debacle a few years ago that wound up raising rates on many employers? What about Act 388, the bill passed in 2006 that exempts owner-occupied homes from the property taxes that fund school operations? The fight over Workers’ Compensation Reform? The state debate over cutting business property and income taxes? Heard of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Whether you support the ACA or not, it changed nearly everything with your employees’ benefits package.

Political parties don’t matter much to businesses these days. Factions of both parties promote policies that are potentially hostile to your bottom line. Think beyond the headline-grabbing Congress and come down to your non-partisan school board – is it implementing curriculums and programs that will give your future workforce the knowledge they need to compete? Also beyond Congress, many small businesses need to look toward the General Assembly or County Council for the biggest impact on your business.

There’s a lot to think about. Now is the time to think about it so you can take action later to support the candidates that will help your bottom line.

Three steps to take today:

1)      Search for your candidates. Go to scvotes.org and find out the state and local districts where you live (be sure to do it that way and not look at an older voter registration card since all political districts changed three years ago). Once you have that information, you can search for the candidates for office. Sample ballots will be available at scvotes.org in the next few weeks.

2)      Google (or Yahoo!, or Bing) the candidate and the office. The more prominent the office, the better chance the candidate has an active website. Most candidates have Facebook pages that not only give you a sense of the candidate’s positions on the issues, but also will announce the candidate’s appearances.

3)      Go to candidate forums or appearances. The more local you get, the more accessible the candidates are to the individual voter. After a party forum or a Rotary Club meeting, most of the candidates will stand around and answer questions until the room is clear – kind of like what you hoped for when you wanted a sports star’s autograph when you were a kid. (And for those of us who live and breathe politics as adults, it’s not a dissimilar passion.)

When you find the candidates you want to support, call them. Candidates for office are always looking for support. Most of them will be happy to talk to you and let you know how you can help. And when it comes to how you can help, I’ll cover that in the next blog post.

2014 Legislative Recap

Added on: June 26, 2014

More Information >> http://www.upstatechamber.org/2014-legislative-recap.php

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