By Paul Gable
Rep. Alan Clemmons chaired a sub-committee meeting Wednesday at the state house for a hospitality fee bill that attempts to dictate what local governments must do with regard to spending hospitality fee revenue.
After the meeting, Clemmons attempted to put a positive spin on the meeting by telling a local television reporter, “They say that when both parties aren’t happy then you’ve usually reached a fair middle ground.”
I’m not sure who “they” are, but that thinking doesn’t apply in this case. The reason nobody from the cities or county representatives at the meeting voiced anything positive about the bill is this really is a terrible bill.
Clemmons is one of the sponsors of the bill joined by Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis. It is notable here that the four can’t even get the entire Horry County delegation signed on as co-sponsors.
Clemmons has tried to spin the bill as a settlement for the lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County.
It is not.
The real purpose of the bill is to attempt to force local governments in Horry County to do what the ‘failing four’ can’t get done at the state level – Fund Interstate 73. The entire focus in Columbia is to get as much funding for I-73 from hospitality fee revenue as possible while ignoring the many more immediate, local government needs that the revenue could be used toward.
Initially this bill tried to dictate that all the hospitality fee revenue be used for I-73 construction. An amendment was approved Wednesday that would give the cities approximately one-half of the revenue to use for improvement of tourist related infrastructure and to fund other tourist related needs. The county would get zero for local needs.
The formula established in the amendment would provide approximately $20 million annually to I-73 construction costs within Horry County. Note – Horry County is being asked to be the only county in the history of interstate highway construction to completely fund construction costs of the portion of the interstate highway within its borders through locally generated tax revenue.
Future state and federal funding, if ever appropriated, is projected to be spent in Marion, Dillon and Marlboro counties, not Horry.
This bill is so terrible even the three pro-I-73 county council members who attended the meeting, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford and Gary Loftus, didn’t speak during the hearing and they can always be counted on to voice unqualified support for the interstate.
Clemmons has tried to make I-73 construction a signature accomplishment of his service (nearly 18 years) in the S. C. House, along with taking trips to Israel and the Middle East every couple of years funded by his campaign chest.
Clemmons has managed to get a couple of resolutions supporting Israel and chastising those countries who boycott Israeli products because of West Bank issues. For I-73, he has accomplished basically nothing but the expenditure of hot air.
Clemmons will undoubtedly continue to push to get his bill through Columbia. However, before the county considers an ordinance to institute the provisions of the state bill, the citizens should be asked, in a referendum question on the November 2020 general election ballot, whether they support totally funding I-73 construction in Horry County with locally generated tax dollars.