Resident constituents remain top priority
By Senator Ray Cleary
SC Senate District 34
I believe that less government is the best government and that my job as a State Senator is to represent the best interests of the people who live and work in my district. That means keeping taxes as low as possible and insisting that state government provide you with the very best services possible at the lowest possible cost. I'm proud of my record of hard work and tough votes on both.
Some issues that come before the General Assembly are simple and clear cut; others are quite complicated with the devil in the details. I recently received a letter scolding me for my position on a change in property taxes and realized that I while my vote was the right thing to do, my explanation of it left much to be desired.
Contrary to her assertion, my legislation was very narrowly aimed at providing relief for permanent residents of area homes. Simply stated, it allowed only permanent residents to keep their property taxes at 4% even if economic conditions require them to temporarily rent that primary permanent home. The recession has taken a huge toll on so many of my constituents and I just don't believe it's fair for government to add to the problem by penalizing good citizens for conditions beyond their control.
Throughout my first two terms, I have consistently voted to protect taxpayers — especially homeowners. Since 2005, we have reduced taxes by over a $Billion and have fewer state employees to boot. We eliminated the 5% tax groceries — a tax that hurt everyone, but was especially hard on seniors and young families. We eliminated entire tax brackets for individuals and family corporations. We cut the state budget and did not raise taxes to make up for the shortfall. So while our population has grown to allow for an all-new Congressional District right here along the coast, we've kept the lid on spending and taxation.
Faced with staggering insurance costs following Katrina, we worked overtime to keep people from losing their homes to a combination of skyrocketing insurance premiums (often in excess of $15,000) and higher property taxes. We voted to shift the costs of school operations to a statewide penny sales tax and then also voted to allow counties to add a penny tax, thereby dramatically reducing millage. Every new law, every piece of legislation, every vote was welcomed by homeowners as we sought and continue to seek ways they can better afford the American dream.
I was honored to have been elected to my first term by a considerable margin — and humbled to have run unopposed for my second and third term. I learned early on that while you can't please all the people all of the time - but you can listen all of the time and I continue to welcome your comments and suggestions. And I hope that it's now clear that my vote on this most recent tax matter is consistent with my record on your behalf.
Ray Cleary is a dentist and banker living in Murrells Inlet. He represents portions of Georgetown and Horry counties in South Carolina Senate District 34.
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