In his attempts at making a political comeback, Rex Rice may want to tell Pickens County voters about his obsession with cigarette taxes.
While in the state House, Rice, who formerly represented parts of Greenville and Pickens Counties, was a perennial sponsor of bills creating and raising taxes on cigarettes for a variety of purposes - until the 2009/2010 session, when he was running for the GOP nomination for the Third Congressional District.
Maybe he didn't want to divide his time between convincing voters he was a fiscally-conservative candidate and raising taxes, but you'd have to ask him to be sure.
In the three sessions prior to launching his Congressional bid, Rice was the primary sponsor of five bills regarding cigarette taxes, mostly with open-ended language that allowed money to be spent for pretty much anything:
- H. 3371 (2003-2004 session): Bill would combined a number of state human services agencies into a single cabinet agency with a built-in 2.1 cent per cigarette tax for unspecified "public health purposes". Bill died in committee without a hearing.
- H. 3194 (2005-2006 session): Bill would create a 1.5 cent per cigarette tax for unspecified "public health purposes". Bill died in committee without a hearing.
- H. 4888 (2005-2006 session): Bill would create a 1.5 cent per cigarette tax, to be raised quarter-penny annually, for youth smoking programs, the Department of Agriculture and "critical programs that meet the health needs of South Carolinians". Bill died in committee without a hearing.
- H. 3072 (2007-2008 session): Bill would create a sixty-cent per pack tax, allegedly to fund return credits to be issued by Palmetto Pride (creating a new bureaucracy) and remaining funds going to "health care needs designated by the General Assembly". Bill died in committee without a hearing.
- H. 3567 (2007-2008 session): This catch-all bill would create a tax of 2.1 cents per cigarette, to be divided between the Department of Agriculture, smoking cessation programs, children and senior health care programs and a study committee to determine health care affordability (maybe to justify more taxes). The veto of this bill was sustained.
... and then with his GOP Congressional bid looming, this steady stream of tobacco-related tax bills stopped. Imagine that?
In spite of this record of sponsoring numerous open-ended tax and spend bills, Rice has attracted the support of some Tea Party activists. Maybe they're not as fiscally conservative as they'd like people to think they are?
In any event, Senate District 2 residents might want to ask Rice what he would plan to do if elected, but a record like this gives one a pretty good idea what he'll do when he thinks he can get away with it.