Additional Funding for Coast RTA

By Paul Gable

The message from last week’s Horry County Transportation Committee meeting was Horry County Council would search for ways to provide additional funding for Coast RTA.

The transportation agency currently receives $1.055 million annually from the county’s general fund budget. According to remarks by council chairman Mark Lazarus, Coast RTA would like that amount to rise to approximately $1.9 million per year.

In addition, Coast RTA wants to spend a total of approximately $16 million on capital improvements for the system over the next several years. It should be noted, all of this money does not have to come from the county or other local government funding sources. The federal government provides 80% funding for capital expenditures with a 20% local match.

Still, $3.33 million must come from some form of local funding for these capital projects to be realized.

“We’ve got to figure out how to fund them,” Lazarus said during the meeting.

Lazarus said Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge was investigating ways to provide Coast RTA with recurrent funding. Lazarus said a one-cent local option sales tax was one possibility that would be looked at.

During the discussion, Lazarus made one comment I didn’t understand. He said state law prohibits the use of (property tax) millage from being used to fund transportation.

However, property tax millage is exactly what is being used now and has been for years to provide Coast RTA with annual grants from Horry County.

An additional one-cent sales tax is unacceptable, in our opinion. A one-cent tax was just approved by voters for RIDE III last month. If a sales tax is the preferred way to fund Coast RTA, it should have been included in the list of projects for RIDE III, a perfectly acceptable use of RIDE funds if it had been included in the project list.

But, to now recommend an additional one-cent tax immediately after asking the voters to approve RIDE III is unacceptable.

Think about it, one-cent on most purchases doesn’t sound like much.

But, we have one-cent for RIDE III as we have been conditioned to paying through the years of RIDE II. The school board has a one-cent local option tax for capital projects. If you make purchases in Myrtle Beach there is the additional one-cent tax for tourism promotion.

Now, county council seems to be leaning toward another one-cent addition to the sales tax for Coast RTA.

This demonstrates how quickly the six-cent state sales tax is raised to 10 cents on the dollar. This, of course, doesn’t include the two and one-half cent hospitality tax paid on all prepared foods and other items in Horry County (restaurant meals, the coke at the convenience store, deli items at the food store and the like).

To paraphrase former Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, ‘another penny tax here, another penny tax there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.’

If Horry County Council wants to provide additional funding to Coast RTA, or guarantee its present level, it should find a means of doing so without raising any new taxes.

We are already hearing about new taxes from our legislative delegation and the General Assembly.

This is supposed to be a conservative, Republican area. There seems to be some disconnect in these supposedly conservative minds where sales taxes aren’t real taxes. More like user fees, you know. If it takes money from my pocket and gives it to the government, it’s a tax!

Why are all these supposed conservatives so ready to pull the trigger on new taxes year after year?

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