Horry County Taxpayers Betrayed in Governor’s I-73 Plan

By Paul Gable

Gov. Henry McMaster travelled from Columbia to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters Monday to unveil his “Potential Funding Plan” for Interstate 73 from its eastern terminus at U. S. 17 in Briarcliffe to connection with I-95 near Dillon.

It was a duplicitous move by the governor when one considers that all of the $795 million from state funds recommended by McMaster will be spent entirely in Dillon and Marion counties. McMaster’s funding plan for completion of the Horry County section of I-73 is placed on the backs of Horry County taxpayers with possibly $150 million of federal funds being thrown in.

Even by standards of a South Carolina state government that continuously uses Horry as a donor county to the rest of the state, the plan is outrageous. It is outright Marxist philosophy that our “so-called conservative Republican” elected officials claim to fight against.

In 1875, Karl Marx wrote the economic and political philosophy of his “communism” was “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In other words, transfer the wealth from the rich to the poor. That is exactly what is being done with Horry County tax dollars so Dillon and Marion taxpayers don’t have to contribute any locally collected tax dollars.

In addition, that $350 million of local contribution from the county and the cities would be better spent on existing infrastructure needs such as Hwy 90, Hwy 905, the SELL road and the proposed road around Conway to 701 for the county, infrastructure and police needs in Myrtle Beach and parking and other infrastructure needs in North Myrtle Beach.

Furthermore, the elected officials representing Horry County voters who showed up to praise the plan, Congressman Tom Rice, state legislators Sen. Luke Rankin, Sen. Greg Hembree, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Case Brittain, and Rep. Heather Crawford, county council members Dennis DiSabato, Orton Bellamy, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Gary Loftus, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and city council members Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and John Krajc and North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, have a lot of splainin’ to do for supporting the plan.

Rice, Brittain, Crawford, Bellamy, Vaught, Howard and Servant are all up for reelection in 2022. Bethune, Jackie Hatley, Smith and Marilyn Hatley are up for reelection in the upcoming November 2021 city elections. Fry is giving up his statehouse seat to challenge Rice for Congress. Will the voters reject these liberal Marxist spendthrifts?

The entire funding plan projects $795 million from the state, $430 million from the feds and $350 million combined from Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. None of that money is approved to be spent on I-73 at this time. Dillon and Marion counties are not projected to appropriate any money.

If Horry County and the cities send $350 million of hospitality fee revenue to the state to spend on I-73 rather than local roads, the net loss to county taxpayers will be $700 million – the $350 million sent to the state and that same $350 million that could, but will not, be spent to improve existing roads.

The $430 million projected from the federal government seems a very optimistic number, but, maybe with Rice’s improved standing with Speaker Nancy Pelosi since he voted to impeach President Trump, the Democrats controlling Congress will come through for Rice.

The plan acknowledges previously utilized funds on the project of $97 million from the federal government, $86 million of which was earmarked by former Rep. Henry Brown and $20 million from the state government. However, no mention is made of the approximately $450 million Horry County spent constructing SC-22, 20 years ago. SC-22 from approximately two miles north of the current U.S. 701 interchange to its terminus at Briarcliffe will be upgraded to interstate standards to become the final stretch of I-73.

I would submit Horry County residents already did their part in building SC 22, but McMaster, Rice and the numerous local politicians at Monday’s announcement, all of whom kowtow to the Chamber’s wishes, apparently think otherwise.

Fry, who is running against Rice in the June 2022 Republican primary for the SC 7th Congressional District, actually turned his back on his constituents twice in praising the governor’s I-73 funding plan. In a radio interview the day after the Chamber’s extravaganza, Fry said we must all “think big” when considering I-73, following Rice’s, the Chamber’s and the governor’s leads in betraying Horry County taxpayers.

Fry, who continues to profess to voters he is a “conservative Republican”, obviously has no qualms in placing extra tax burdens on Horry County taxpayers to fund the I-73, while also ignoring the best interests of his constituents in his current southeastern Horry County House district. Those residents and voters would be much better served, in general travel as well as hurricane evacuation, with construction of the proposed SELL (Southeastern Lifeline) road than I-73. There is no projected funding for the SELL road at this time and Fry continues to ignore it.

Servant falls into the same category of double blindness with Fry since he represents many of the same block of voters on county council. Fry and Servant both ignore the wishes and best interests of their respective constituents in order to appease their Chamber masters.

Bethune led Myrtle Beach City Council in suing Horry County to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality tax from which former county chairman Mark Lazarus first proposed funding for the I-73 project in Horry County. Bethune has now done an about face and supports local funding from city and county residents. Isn’t that called flip-flopping in political parlance? Jackie Hatley and Smith dutifully followed the lead of the mayor’s flip-flop.

When Brittain first ran for his current SC House seat last year, he expressed his intent to go to Columbia to get a “fair share” of state budget appropriations for Horry County. Now, he supports the governor’s plan that includes $795 million from state coffers, none of which will come to Horry County. Campaign promises are so quickly forgotten.

DiSabato is currently championing a resolution by county council to dedicate $4.2 million per year of county hospitality fees to the I-73 project for 30 years. He wasn’t able to get the resolution on the agenda of the county’s I&R Committee, of which he is a member, but succeeded in having Vaught call a special meeting of the county Administration Committee to vote on the resolution. Vaught, Loftus and Servant voted to approve the resolution while fourth committee member Harold Worley voted against. It will now go to full council for an up or down vote where we will see how all twelve county council members choose to support their constituents or the Chamber.

The remaining politicians mentioned above, Rankin, Goldfinch, Hembree, Crawford, Bellamy and Howard simply fall into the category of Chamber toadies – whatever the Chamber wants, they will support without question.

Speaking of the Chamber and its CEO Riordan, the organization receives approximately $30-$40 million per year from the Tourism Development Fee (which is really a one-cent sales tax dedicated to the Chamber by the City of Myrtle Beach) to promote tourism in out of area markets.

If the Chamber really feels I-73 is necessary infrastructure to draw more tourists to the area, shouldn’t it be willing to have the General Assembly change the TDF enabling legislation to allow say $5-$10 million per year of TDF revenue go toward funding I-73 rather than expecting the local governments in the county to spend more of their tax revenue, which would be much better spent on current, local infrastructure needs rather than on completing I-73 in the county?

After all, why advertise for more tourists if you don’t have the infrastructure needed to support them? If we need I-73 as desperately as the Chamber and its controlled politicians sermonize, that would appear to be a logical approach to providing local funding for I-73. It would give the Chamber the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is.

Marxist communism was never known for intelligent economic theories or financial discipline. Neither are our local politicians who are self-professed ‘conservative Republicans’ but really appear to follow Marx when they ‘belly up to the bar’ to drink the Chamber Kool Aid.

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