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By Heather Walters
Municipalities across South Carolina are waiting to hear if a proposed bill in the S.C. House of Representatives makes any movement, with the bill set to impact businesses and city income.
Last Wednesday, S.C. Rep. Bill Sandifer requested that two bills pertaining to businesses licenses in South Carolina be sent to the House’s Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee for “further discussion,” according to Scott Slatton, with the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
These two proposed bills – H3650 and H3651 – would create a uniform system for obtaining business licenses in South Carolina, no matter where you live. The bills would make the Secretary of State responsible for collecting business license fees through one, central filing location, which will be online.
Although the bills are stated to be for the purpose of standardizing business license fees, the bills also give discounts and exemptions to certain special interests like large manufacturers and companies with out-of-state headquarters, placing locally owned businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Those same breaks are not available to the many small businesses located in Walterboro and in other towns and cities across South Carolina.
City Manager Jeff Molanari says Walterboro City Council members are currently in “budget mode,” adding that he does not know how the city would make-up the cost deficit should the proposed bills pass in the House and Senate. “You could be looking increasing the cost of (local) business licenses,” he said.
Mayor Bill Young, relying on information provided by the City’s financial department has stated that in Walterboro, the proposed bills – if passed – would create an estimated $539,000 cut in the city’s revenue generated from the collection of annual business license fees. Mayor Young further stated that to make up a loss of that size the City of Walterboro would need to increase the millage rate used to calculate property taxes in the City by 29.67 mills or increase the business license rates by 53% or do a combination of those two strategies. In any event, this would mean a tax or fee increase for property owners and/or business owners in the City of Walterboro. Mayor Young says he and the other members of Walterboro City Council oppose the bills and are actively working to defeat them.
The S.C. Municipal Association is encouraging local business owners, residents, media and area Chambers of Commerce to petition elected House delegates about the bill. They are opposing the proposed bills, saying individual cities and towns in South Carolina would no longer have control over how they set up a business license fee and collection system.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina has since released statements, saying they proposed bills could be changed back toward “the initial intent,” which was meant to “standardize” the business licensing process throughout the state, without necessarily impacting how the fees will be calculated or collected.
As of press deadline, both of the proposed bills were sent back to the House committee for further discussion on the details.