Commentary: Tax system needs overhauling now

This editorial appeared in The State.

This year's state budget already has been cut from $7 billion to $6 billion and might have to be cut more; things look even worse for the 2009-10 budget lawmakers have already started crafting. Cuts of this magnitude would be difficult enough in a government (or business, or family) that did everything it needed to do; they are magnified in ours, which already fell far short of meeting our state's basic needs.

Although a few lawmakers relish the idea of making massive cuts to government spending, most realize that with the size of the cuts, their options largely will be between bad choices and worse ones. The result is that most legislators return to Columbia Tuesday to convene the 2009 General Assembly in hunker-down mode, fixated on cobbling together a budget that does as little long-term damage as possible to our state.

The temptation is great to push all other fiscal matters not just to the back burner, but off the stove.

That would be a monumental mistake.

Yes, legislators must focus on the immediate problem. But that immediate and growing problem actually increases the urgency of overhauling our tax system. As economists have noted, the way we tax has plunged our state into far deeper crisis than the recession alone would have. And if that isn't fixed, we will remain in fiscal crisis much longer than we must — and remain more susceptible to future crises.

To read the complete editorial, visit The State.