COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — People from out-of-state are moving to South Carolina in droves and now one state lawmaker wants to make them pay for it—literally.
A new piece of legislation, introduced by Sen. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Georgetown) last month, would allow counties to impose an additional $250 driver’s license fee and an additional $250 vehicle licensing registration fee on new state residents.
“We’re literally paying for the roads, the bridges, the utilities, the schools, and the greenspace that they get to take advantage of on day one when they move in,” Goldfinch said. “I think it’s sort of shameful that the people that are already here have to pay in anticipation of people that are coming.”
More than 450,000 people moved to South Carolina between 2010 and 2020 and the state’s population grew by nearly 90,000 people between July 2021 and July 2022, according to U.S. Census data. Nearby North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida are among the states sending the most people.
“The situation is dire right now,” Goldfinch said. “We’ve got to get ahead of this rather than behind it.”
Goldfinch noted that many of those moving to the Palmetto State are retirees, echoing 2018 U.S. Census data which showed a net migration of about 8,000 people ages 60 or older.
“Most of those folks aren’t paying taxes other than sales taxes because they’re already retired and moving here,” he said. Social Security benefits are not subject to tax in South Carolina.
According to the bill, voters would need to approve the fee hikes through a referendum, which would be put on the ballot by either a county council ordinance or petition.
“There are counties in South Carolina where this might not be appropriate,” Goldfinch explained. “But certainly in some high growth areas like the ones that I represent, I know it is a welcome piece of legislation.”
In addition to approving or denying the referendum, voters would also get to decide how the the extra money is spent. However, the use of funds would be limited to county infrastructure, public education, and the conservation or preservation of greenspaces.
Goldfinch said he plans to amend the legislation to close a loophole in state law which allows individuals to get their driver’s license and vehicle registration at different times. The amended bill would require that a person pay property taxes and resident fee at the same time then pick up their license and registration from the Department of Motor Vehicles all at once.
Although dubbed the “Yankee Tax,” by some members of the statehouse, Goldfinch said the tax is intended for anyone, regardless of where they come from.
“I don’t care where they come from,” Goldfinch said. “They all come with the same advantage that they don’t have to pay for anything that we’ve already built.”
The bill currently resides in the Senate Finance Committee.