I took a short drive up to Winnsboro this weekend to visit an old friend who I hadn’t seen in far too long. Tim Wilkes is the chairman emeritus of our Small Business Chamber. He served as our organization’s chairman until he developed some life-threatening health problems which forced him into permanent disability. Since then he has been in and out of the hospital numerous times including last month.
But as you can see from the pic below, Tim is looking pretty good. He and his beautiful wife Nancy surround themselves with plenty of cats, dogs, goldfish, and lots and lots of plants. Tim also keeps himself plenty busy with his day-trading and antiques-collecting.
When we started the Small Business Chamber, Tim was a member of the S.C. House and a very well-known politician. It is safe to say that if Tim hadn’t put his reputation and influence behind the new organization, we might not have been able to fend off all the big business detractors that tried to stop us.
A highlight of Tim’s chairmanship was appearing before a Senate Finance subcommittee in 2005 with only two other invited guests: Dr. Bill Gillespie of the Board of Economic Advisors and Governor Mark Sanford. Senator Wes Hayes and his subcommittee were making a decision on whether to support the Governor’s plan to reduce all personal income tax from 7% to 4.8% over 10 years, which had already passed the House. The alternative plan, originally proposed several years earlier by the Small Business Chamber, would phase in a reduction in the income tax on small businesses from 7% to 5% over a much shorter time. A bill to do this had been introduced by Senator Hugh Leatherman and co-sponsored by 36 other Senators.
At the subcommittee hearing Governor Sanford argued for his plan. Wilkes urged the subcommittee to support Leatherman’s plan saying that small businesses should not have to wait on the passage of larger tax reduction programs for the tax relief they deserved now. He also pointed out that big business C-corporations already paid only 5% in income tax and that small businesses only wanted parity. Dr. Gillespie testified that the Governor’s plan had a one billion dollar price tag when the tax reduction was fully implemented. Plus, Dr. Gillespie pointed out that compared to Florida that has no income tax, Floridians pay more in overall taxes than South Carolinians.
The subcommittee voted unanimously to support Leatherman’s bill. The language in the House bill was replaced with Leatherman’s bill, the Senate passed it and sent it back to the House. Facing a certain loss in the House if he continued to fight, Governor Sanford voiced his support for the new plan. Because of our persistant efforts, small business owners today pay only a 5% income tax on the profits from their business. Had the Governor succeeded back then, one can only imagin how much worse our state’s economic situation would have been today.