Welcome To South Carolina! Now Pay Your Carpetbagging 'Yankee' Tax.
We'd like to imagine that people are fleeing Republican-run states that have passed radical anti-abortion legislation and anti-trans bills, while crapping on education. However, South Carolina has done all three, and it was still the third-fastest-growing state in 2022, just behind Florida and Idaho, which are worse.
According to data from the US Census Bureau, the state's population as of July 1 was an estimated 5,282,634. That's an increase of 89,368 residents from 2021. Putting that in perspective, all those new residents alone could account for one of South Carolina's largest cities.
When I was growing up in South Carolina, I often thought, "You couldn't pay me to live here!" but now lawmakers in my home state believe that they can demand people pay up for the privilege of moving there.
A new so-called "Yankee tax" would require that new South Carolina residents pay a $500 one-time fee to obtain a driver’s license and car registration. The state's Senate Finance Committee approved the proposal last week by an 11 to six vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.
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"We’re not trying to build a wall across the North Carolina border," insists Republican state Senator Stephen Goldfinch, the bill's author. "But, at the same time, we think that people should have to pay their fair share when they show up."
Goldfinch has compared the "Yankee tax" to impact fees or the one-time charges developers often pay to help fund the increased demands on public facilities that their new project generates. He's made this comparison a lot, so we can only assume he thinks it's clever.
However, South Carolina already funds infrastructure maintenance with gas taxes that the state increased by two cents per gallon in 2017. This additional fee directly targets out-of-state migrants, and it's also a somewhat regressive "tax" because it's a fixed amount for something most everyone needs.
Arguably, new South Carolina residents have already paid "their fair share" to the state's infrastructure. President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill will deliver approximately $6 billion over the next five years in federal funding for highways and bridges. Nonetheless, Goldfinch sees more sources of revenue from all the people moving to South Carolina.The estimated 129,000 transplants in 2019 would've ponied up a total $64.5 million. That's not chump change even if you feel like one for paying the fee.
Some members of the state Legislature have expressed concerns over the "Yankee tax" and have already suggested exemptions for the new voters they'd prefer not to alienate. Even so, some in the state Legislature are conflicted over the move, and one state senator already suggested exempting members of the military.
The pandemic reportedly accelerated South Carolina's population surge, and it was the second-most-popular state to relocate to in 2020. Meanwhile, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, and California had the highest percentage of residents who peaced out.
Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California Los Angeles, said in 2021, “We’re seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt accelerated broader moving trends, including retirement driving top inbound regions as the Baby Boomer generation continues to reach that next phase of life."
Considering that Marjorie Taylor Greene, actual member of Congress, would like to deny out-of-state residents the right to vote for five years (no, seriously) if they move from a blue state to a red state, by comparison, state Sen. Goldfinch's proposed "Yankee" tax feels almost like a giant welcome mat.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."