SC groups join forces to rally for a moral budget

By Becci Robbins
SC Progressive Network

A growing number of churches, educators, health care providers, grassroots groups and professional organizations will rally in Columbia on Saturday, March 12, at 1pm at the State House to demand that lawmakers “Stop the cuts! Fund a moral budget.” The House begins debate on the budget March 15.

“Budgets are moral documents” said Rev. Brenda Kneece, Executive Minister of the SC Christian Action Council. “A civilized society chooses to do together what individuals or organizations cannot do alone: protect all and provide for the vulnerable.”

While the state’s political leadership says there is no alternative to further cuts to our bare-bones budget, they are ignoring the fact that more equitable cuts could be made through broad and fair reforms to our tax code.

According to the recent report by the Tax Realignment Commission (TRAC), created by the legislature to reform SC tax codes — a report that was quickly shelved — South Carolina imposes one of the country’s lowest individual income tax burdens. An estimated $3.7 billion was left out of the current budget due to sales and service tax exemptions alone.

Rally sponsors hold press conference Feb. 24 in the SC State House.

“Taxes are low in South Carolina, and getting lower,” said Dr. Holley Ulbrich, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics at Clemson University and a Senior Scholar at the Strom Thurmond Institute. “South Carolina ranks 47th out of 51 states (including the District of Columbia) in taxes as a percent of income, and 51st in taxes per capita. The 2010 budget per person was at the 1984 level in constant dollars.”

“The problem isn’t money,” said Brett Bursey, Director of the SC Progressive Network. “The problem is a political ideology that’s both anti-government and anti-taxes. Exemptions, deductions and tax credits leave enough money out of the state budget to meet our needs, with some left over for improvements. We have to send a clear message to the legislature that the race to the bottom must end, and revenue must be raised to fund critical services.

“The money is there,” Bursey said. “The political will is not.”

“We are 1,000 percent behind this rally and are urging all state employees to be there,” said SC State Employee’s Association Interim Director Joe Benton. “Further budget cuts will result in more layoffs and furloughs that hurt not only state employees and their families, but the citizens they serve.”

Jackie Hicks, President of the South Carolina Education Association, South Carolina’s oldest and largest professional association of educators, is encouraging her members to rally to protect and defend public education. “For too long, we’ve allowed legislators to shirk their duty to provide adequate, equitable and stable funding for South Carolina’s public schools and the students they serve. Our current funding is totally inadequate for the educational services our students need.”

Rev. Kneece said, “As faithful citizens we are called to come together through budgets and the taxes that fund them to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9, New International Version).”

Over the past two years, the state budget has been cut from $7.9 to $5 billion, making severe cuts to state services. Further cuts, being debated in the legislature, propose more reductions in health care services to nearly 900,000 Medicaid recipients, ending preventative care, AIDs drug programs, aid for needy children; more teacher’s jobs lost, larger classes, higher tuition; the end of SCETV and the Arts Commission – just to name a few of the casualties.

Life will be harder, with fewer opportunities, especially for the 25 percent of our children living in poverty.

Initial Sponsors: SC AFL-CIOSC Christian Action CouncilSC Education Association •  S.C. HIV/AIDS Care Crisis Task Force • SC NAACP •  SC Progressive NetworkSC State Employees AssociationTies That Bind

For more information, see, email or call 803-808-3384.