Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Forbes on Gov. Mark Sanford

At Forbes we find this article about the governor. It's interesting that the author sees Sanford as more Goldwater than Reagan. Shorthand for the difference is that Goldwaterism is rigorous and tough budget cutting while Reaganism is lower taxes and no budget cuts. For my money I would say that the dichotomy is Goldwater/George W. Bush, at least in practice. In any event, Governor Sanford certainly is frugal on spending. But the article gives the impression that nothing has been done on the tax front during his time as governor. Forbes writes:

But the real test is whether Sanford is willing to put shrinking government ahead of cutting taxes. The evidence suggests that the answer is yes. Earlier on in his tenure as governor, Sanford made a serious effort to gradually eliminate the state income tax. Yet he ultimately came to terms with the fact that he'd have to raise another tax, like the much-despised property tax, to make up for the lost revenue, and so he ultimately abandoned his plan.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, the idea of cutting the state income tax isn't off the table while Sanford is still governor. And, there is also a proposal for elimination of the state corporate tax rolling around Columbia. But, more importantly, Governor Sanford oversaw the near elimination of the property tax on homeowner real estate.
The last tax year we lived in California we paid about $7,000 in real estate taxes. We fled CA and in SC we bought the same amount of house on three times as much property for one third of the price. With that good move also came a drop in real estate taxes of 68%. We thought that was pretty nice since our local schools are immeasurably better than what we left in CA too. But, it would get even better. The part of homeowner real property taxes used for education was eliminated and offset by a 1 point rise in the state sales tax. We live near the NC border and the increased sales tax just put us at the level already charged in that state. So now our HOA fees are more than our property taxes for real estate. We pay 85% less per year than we did in CA for more. The idea that Mark Sanford wasn't interested in cutting tax rates just isn't accurate but you could get that impression if you only looked at income tax rates.

If we are using the Goldwater scale used by the Forbes author I would put Mark Sanford between Goldwater and GWB on economics, which means he's sitting pretty close to, you guessed it, Ronald Reagan. Less spending, lower tax rates, and balanced budgets.