COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to give $50 back to state taxpayers, but the plan comes with a few strings.
The state collected $61 million in income taxes from the winner of the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot back in October 2018.
As the state’s budget approaches its final version, both the House and Senate version include a plan to use the funds to issue $50 checks.
Not every taxpayer, however, will benefit under the plan.
The South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office explained the Senate’s version only awards rebates to tax returns with a liability of $50 or more.
Office officials said it’s not about whether a person received a tax refund when they filed this year, it’s about the net amount owed in state taxes.
“So these checks are going to go to people who are making money, alright?” Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry County, explained during an April Senate session.
Of the 2.3 million tax returns filed this year, 55 percent of the returns qualify. The plan will benefit 1.9 million taxpayers, but not everyone will receive a check.
The $50 rebates are being issued based on tax returns, not the number of taxpayers. This means households that filed joint taxes will only receive one $50 check.
“You get $50 jointly, so mama gets $25 and daddy gets $25,” Hembree said.
The state’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office estimates mailing the checks will cost the state around $660,000. Officials said the House’s version of the rebate plan doesn’t have the $50 liability minimum and is by taxpayers rather than refund.
The Office has not run estimates on that version, but it will cost more since more taxpayers will benefit.
It’s a cost that has many lawmakers questioning the use of the funds.
“There are so many things we could do with that money if we pool it together that would affect the lives of South Carolinians that are worth far more than $50 to us,” said Rep. Mandy Powers-Norrell, D-Lancaster.
Hembree suggested the $61 million be put toward the state’s multi-billion-dollar retirement system liability, teacher raises, and repairs and renovations on higher education facilities.
“We got a chance to take this bit of money and work towards solving a problem,” Hembree said on the Senate floor in April.
The Senate failed to pass any of Hembree’s alternatives.
Many other senators agreed with the intentions of Hembree’s suggestions but didn’t vote to change the $50 rebate.
“I don’t care if it’s just $50. I want as much money put back into the private sector because fundamentally I believe that that private sector is going to put that money to productive uses,” explained Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.
Lawmakers have yet to pass a final budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.