SC Senate debates tax breaks for retail (Audio)

Sen. Pinckney in Q & A with Sen. Leatherman

Debate in the Senate this week centered around a new shopping center. Jasper County wants to offer state tax breaks for the Sembler Company to build a retail mall. Read bill
Jasper Senator Clementa Pinckney’s argument: what’s good for Boeing and other manufacturing companies is good for large scale commercial development. His area needs the jobs, he says, even if they are entry-level jobs.
(Sen.Pinkney on Sembler incentives MP3 1:25)
Senator Pinckney on Sembler incentives MP3 1:25

Sen. Davis had charts of his own to argue that incentives for Sembler have no return on investment

The larger issue, whether retail development should get large scale tax breaks — and what kind of retail stores should qualify. Finance Committee chair Hugh Leatherman of Florence says, “Should we look at only giving incentives for the high-end [retailers] which will attract people and not give incentives, and I tell you I am opposed to giving incentives to run-of-the-mill retail? If we open that door, Senator, then there’s not enough money in the state treasury to fill that gap.”
Senator Tom Davis of nearby Beaufort County opposes tax breaks for the Sembler retail mall development.
(Sen. Davis on return on investment MP3 2:23)
Senator Davis on return on tax investment MP3 2:23
Even before debate officially began, the South Carolina Policy Council weighed in against the bill.  Ashley Landess heads the self-described taxpayer protection think tank in Columbia. She says, “You have, in this case, an out-of-state developer comes in, hires a lobbyist and the next thing we know, this plan to spend to spend public money on a retail mall in a terrible economic downturn, is on the fast track in the Senate.”
The Policy Council teamed up with three other groups, including the Coastal Conservation League, who oppose the mall for its potential environmental impact. Landess and the Policy Council assert that the investment has no long-term tax benefits.
According to Landess,  moves like this are hurting rather than helping the state’ s economy. Pinckney of Jasper contends that any new jobs help the economy in this recession.
Senate debate on the bill continues Tuesday.