The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

TRAC: Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

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They are individuals with considerable influence, even though no one  elected them to make recommendations on how South Carolinians will be taxed.

They are the members of the Taxation Realignment Commission (TRAC).

TRAC was created in 2009 as “a temporary and independent commission comprised entirely of non‐legislators” to “assess the effectiveness of the state’s current tax structure and, in doing so, make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding necessary changes, if any, to that structure.”

More precisely, these are “non-legislators” appointed by … well, the Legislature. In fact, eight of TRAC’s 11 members were so appointed. Two additional members were appointed by the governor (to put that into perspective, Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell also appointed two commissioners). The final, ex-officio commissioner, is director of the Department of Revenue.

Any changes TRAC recommends “must be designed to ensure that the state’s tax structure is ‘balanced’ so that the system is ‘adequate, equitable, and efficient.’”

Beyond these basics, it’s worth knowing exactly who sits on the commission—since they are making recommendations that reach into our wallets. Here’s the biographical information provided by commissioners, taken from the Legislature’s TRAC web site.

And here’s a list of TRAC members, and who appointed them to the commission:

  • Chairman: Burnet Maybank, JD: Appointed by Sen. Leatherman: Attorney with lobbying firm Nexsen Pruet; former Director of SC Department of Revenue
  • Vice Chairman: Bob Steelman: Appointed by Rep. Dan Cooper: VP, Tax, for Michelin North America
  • Brian Moody, CPA: Appointed by Governor Sanford: Managing Partner , Moody’s CPAs and Advisors
  • Ken Wingate, CPA, JD: Appointed by Governor Sanford: Managing Shareholder with the law firm Sweeny, Wingate and Barrow
  • Jack Shuler: Appointed by House Speaker Harrell: President and CEO of ArborOne Financial, a  lender specializing in agribusiness
  • Jimmy Addison: Appointed by House Speaker Harrell: SCANA Senior VP and CFO
  • Don Weaver: Appointed by Sen. President Pro Tempore McConnell: Realtor with Re/Max Advantage Group; Founder and CEO, Prime Financial Services
  • Ben Kochenower: Appointed by Sen. Peeler: President and CEO of the accounting form Cline Brandt Kockenower & Co.
  • Charles S. Way, Jr.: Appointed by Sen. Land: Chairman of the Board, the Beach Company, a real estate developer
  • Kenneth Cosgrove: Appointed by Rep. Dan Cooper: Piedmont Petroleum Director of Operations and Marketing
  • Ray N. Stevens: Director of Dept. of Revenue; ex-officio member: Director, SC Department of Revenue

Late last month, TRAC approved its recommendations, which include taxing numerous items that have been tax-free in the past—groceries, prescription drugs, water—and reducing the overall state sales tax. Some special interest beneficiaries are conspicuously absent from the TRAC recommendations, including Boeing and the film industry.

Anticipated revenue from the new taxes is expected to result in a tax increase even if the corresponding 1.04 percent sales tax cut recommended by TRAC is passed by the Legislature. More likely, as we wrote here, is that the proposed tax cut will be shelved altogether.

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