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A few months ago, the state of South Carolina was divided by a fierce debate. Internet giant Amazon wanted to relocate to Lexington and bring thousands of new jobs to the area.
Many people were ecstatic about this news, however that happiness quickly turned to disgust when it became clear that Amazon wanted unfair tax breaks in return for relocating to South Carolina. The company asked the state Legislature to give them a five year sales tax exemption. This, in my opinion, equates to a multi-million bailout of Amazon. Our leaders in Columbia tried to tell us that this was in the best interest of South Carolina and therefore, it needed to be passed. I believe that is a lie. This deal was in the best interest of Lexington County, not South Carolina. This law puts every business in South Carolina, including those in Lancaster County, at a direct disadvantage against Amazon. I was proud of my state representative, Jimmy Neal, when he voted against the law the first time it was brought up in the House. However, I was later disappointed when he voted for it when it was reintroduced. I feel as though Mr. Neal no longer serves the people of District 44 and Lancaster County because he sold out every business in our area for 1,000 jobs for Lexington County.
We can already see the damage that this law has done to our local economy. Since its passage, Lancaster County’s unemployment has risen to 15.2 percent, one of the highest in the state, while shockingly Lexington County now has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 8.6 percent. This is a prime example of government picking winners and losers in our economy. It appears as though our leaders have picked Lexington County as the economic center of our state.
This could be seen during the debate over the Amazon deal. When Sen. Larry Grooms tried to get every business in South Carolina the same deal that Amazon got, he was quickly outnumbered by the other members of the S.C. Senate that were out to only protect Lexington County. In my opinion, we should be having conversations about how much our tax rates should be and if we should even tax certain things. I argue that if we wanted to bring jobs to South Carolina, we need to lower our income and sales taxes for everyone, not just a select few. Others may feel like we need to raise taxes to help the economy. Instead, we have turned our tax system into a contest to see which company can hire the best lobbyist to get them the best deal.
I was really confused by the actions of our leaders on the Amazon deal, especially Rep. Neal. He claims to want to bring jobs to the people of Lancaster County, yet he voted for a bill that will kill Lancaster jobs. Why isn’t Mr. Neal interested in bringing tax relief to Lancaster County business that have been in our community for years and are struggling to keep their doors open?
Rep, Neal has been in the Statehouse for the last 12 years and during that time, we’ve seen factories move overseas, a drastic increase in the size of our state and local governments, and our infrastructure crumble. Where has District 44’s leader been over the last 12 years? The primary job of the people that we send to Columbia should be to do what is in the best interest of Lancaster County, not the best interest of Lexington. However, Rep. Neal seems to be more interested in improving Lexington’s economic environment, not Lancaster’s. When District 44 has needed Rep. Neal to lead them out of one of the worst recessions in the history of our state, he has been missing in action. I believe it’s time to change Columbia, and the only way that we can do that is by sending people to Columbia to represent the people, not special interests and lobbyists.
If Mr. Neal doesn’t want to be the leader that District 44 deserves, then I suggest it’s time we find someone new.
Ryan Payne is a Lancaster County resident.