Politics & Government

Democrat James Smith says he’s supported tax increases. Now it’s an ad in SC gov race

Democratic state Rep. James Smith is running for governor of South Carolina. On Tuesday, Smith came to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal to talk about his positions on major issues.
Democratic state Rep. James Smith is running for governor of South Carolina. On Tuesday, Smith came to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal to talk about his positions on major issues. Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Democratic candidate for S.C. governor James Smith is hitting back on an ad that targets the Richland County lawmaker for supporting a tax increase.

Smith on Thursday denounced an ad from a Republican group that includes audio of Smith saying he has “supported increases in taxes,” adding after an edited pause, “It was the right thing to do,” according to the Associated Press.

The ad from State Solutions, a group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association, is set to begin airing in the Columbia media market on Thursday, the AP reports.

Smith says he was talking about an increase in the state’s gas tax that passed last year as part of a plan to address South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges.

“I voted for the bill to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads,” Smith said in a release Thursday in response to the ad. “That’s what I’m talking about in that sound clip and yes, it was the right thing to do. The Republican leadership agreed, and voted with me.”

After the audio plays, the ad goes on to accuse Smith of opposing attempts to lower taxes on income, property and sales of items like groceries and clothes.

Smith spokesman Brad Warthen said he was unsure what votes the ad is referring to, as the bill numbers cited are no longer current. He said the only time Smith has discussed raising taxes on the campaign trail has been in reference to his vote on the gas tax.

“They take something utterly out of context, and you have to infer what it is they’re talking about,” Warthen said. “If they want to provide the full audio clip, I can talk about it more fully.”

A fuller clip of the audio provided to The State showed Smith also mentioned a vote to increase the state’s cigarette tax.

“We were spending $360 million a year on cigarette-related illnesses,” Smith said. “We needed to do that... I wasn’t going to defend teen cigarettes. It was the right thing to do.”

Warthen said the campaign stood behind that position as well, “because it was about preventing kids from getting hooked on tobacco.”

The bill to raise the gas tax by 12 cents over six years passed by a two-thirds majority in the S.C. House and Senate to overcome a veto by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, Smith’s opponent in November’s election.

“Henry acted like the self-serving politician he is,” Smith said. “He vetoed the bill and begged the lLegislature to override his veto before the ink dried.”

McMaster spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg called that a “false and petty attack.”

“The fact of the matter is they can’t keep straight what tax increase they’re talking about,” Anderegg said. “If he didn’t want people to know he’s for higher taxes, he shouldn’t have voted for higher taxes.”

Gov. Henry Mcmaster believes believes there is already enough money in the budget to fix South Carolina's crumbling roads without raising the gas tax.

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