Gubernatorial candidates talk jobs, comprehensive tax reform

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (AP/WIS) - South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley says she wants to eliminate corporate income taxes to boost jobs.

The GOP candidate began a tour of businesses Wednesday with a visit to a marketing and printing firm in Columbia.

Haley insists the way to help businesses hire employees and bring down the jobless rate is to cut red tape and business taxes. In June, the state's unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.

"If you give businesses cash flow, if you give them profit margins, the first thing they do is hire people," said Haley. "They invest back into their state. The very first thing we want to do is we want to change our tax structure. We want to have comprehensive tax reform."

No argument from the company's president, Walter Kohn.

"Taxes are too high," said Kohn. "Property taxes are too high. We understand there's a fair balance between the taxes we have to pay, but the corporate income tax, the property taxes, they're just too much of a barrier for small businesses and medium-sized businesses."

Earlier this year, the state House passed a bill to eliminate corporate income taxes over 10 years. But the Senate removed that provision, saying the economy was too uncertain to further reduce state tax collections.

Democratic rival and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen says Haley is late to that game and short on specifics.

"I think it's important that we don't have a plan that's just thrown together at the last minute by any governor or candidate," said Sheheen. "I released a jobs plan over 250 days ago. I've traveled the state talking with small and large businesses about it and received the endorsement of the state Chamber of Commerce because of the efforts I've put into job creation."

Sheheen also says he's linked Haley's plan to Gov. Mark Sanford's camp.

"I think much of what she has put forth is a continuation of the failed soundbite policies of Mark Sanford and I see a definite pattern," said Sheheen. "I know that Governor Sanford is supporting her and has the same consultants working on it. I see similarities in the plans. I also see much of the plan that was taken from our jobs plan that we put out last year.

Sheheen says his program goes further in providing help for small companies like Spectra. For instance, setting up a division in the commerce department to promote entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The state's 5 percent corporate tax rate is the third largest source of state revenue behind sales and individual income taxes.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.