A bill that would have made military retirement pay exempt from state taxes in South Carolina died in the Senate finance committee after receiving unanimous support in the state House of Representatives.
House Bill 3112, known as the Giving Back to Our Veterans Act, would have exempted retired active duty military veterans from state tax on their military retirement income. The economic impact of the bill would have been just $24 million according to Rep. Mike Pitts, who is known for his support of veterans and aggressively supported the legislation.
“It’s a common sense bill,” Pitts said of the legislation. “There is little to no negative economic impact on the budget directly and the money not being collected in income tax will be spent by those veterans in South Carolina. Our veterans deserve the tax break as just a small token of the state’s appreciation for their service to our country.”
The $24 million impact to the state budget represents just one-tenth of 1 percent of the South Carolina’s $24 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
Se. Billy O’Dell and Sen. Floyd Nicholson are members of both the Greenwood County state delegation and the Senate Finance Committee. Both senators said they would support the bill if the economic impact were not too great on the state and both said the bill was moved into a subcommittee other than their own prior to year’s session ending. The bill will have to be reintroduced in the House of Representatives during the next term.
“Anything we can do for the veterans, we should do,” O’Dell said. “I certainly would support the bill if it did not have a significantly negative fiscal impact on the state.”
Nicholson agreed with O’Dell.
“I think we should do anything we can for our veterans,” Nicholson said. “But we have to look at the fiscal impact also. I am supportive of veterans 100 percent.”
Carey Bolt, director of veteran affairs for Greenwood and Laurens counties, said he did not understand why the bill failed to move out of subcommittee.
“This is a bill that should have been passed,” Bolt said. “I don’t think they understand the retirement of a soldier, sailor, airman, marine or whatever the case may be is not overwhelming them with money. This bill needs to be passed as soon as possible.”
The bill would alleviate some financial strain on veterans, many of them over the age of 65, according to American Legion Post 20 commander Terry Weeks. Weeks said the tax relief would have been a small but much appreciated gesture.
“I'm disappointed, but not surprised, that the bill didn't make it into law,” Weeks. “$24M is a small amount for the state to show appreciation for the sacrifices our veterans have made for this country.”