Legislature wraps up banner year for small businesses

Legislature wraps up banner year for small businesses

By Jennifer Holland, The Item

Published June 3, 2005

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina General Assembly wrapped up the 2005 session Thursday touting the year’s success for small businesses.

Both bodies adjourned a little before 5 p.m. with plans to come back in a couple weeks to consider gubernatorial vetoes.

“We’ve had a banner year legislatively and one of the best legislative years that I’ve seen in my 25 years up here,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman said.

Lawmakers say tax breaks for small businesses and changes in the legal system to limit frivolous lawsuits will help businesses grow and create jobs across the state.

“I think this year is a culmination of a number of years’ work to focus economic-development legislation on the needs of small business,” said Sen. Jim Ritchie, R-Spartanburg. “Given our high unemployment rate, it was essential that we made progress this session.”

After years of steep cuts in the state budget, a brighter economic outlook gave lawmakers the first chance to give a tax cut to small-business owners.

The legislation reduces taxes on small-business profits to 5 percent – the same for big businesses – down from 7 percent and will cost about $130 million when fully implemented in four years.

“Finally, this year, we have a little bit of room to give some tax relief to small business,” said House Minority Leader Harry Ott, D-St. Matthews.

In the final hours of the session, the House and Senate approved one major bill that would give small businesses a tax break for hiring more workers.

Under the Jobs Creation Act, small businesses could hire two people and qualify for job creation tax credits. They now have to hire 10 to get the credit.

Business advocates said there still was work to be done, but they were thrilled with the results this year.

“This is a banner year for small businesses,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “This is truly the first time South Carolina has done something specifically for small businesses.”

Knapp said the effects of changes in the civil justice system, often called tort reform, will take time to be noticed.

“It may be a psychological boost for small businesses,” Knapp said. “The payoff for that is going to be down the road.”

The legislation sets standards for who pays what share of damages, restricts where lawsuits can be filed, targets frivolous lawsuits and limits how long businesses and consumers can sue over shoddy construction.

Original article: http://www.theitem.com/news02/legislature-wraps-up-banner-year-for-businesses/article_645abd3c-6a7b-5912-8801-69b1420912da.html