By Paul Gable
The two candidates in a special election primary runoff for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council chairman spoke of the need to continue to address the same issues that brought them this far.
With those pronouncements in mind, Mark Lazarus and Al Allen, the two surviving candidates, owe some explanations to the voters how they will pursue their earlier pronouncements without raising taxes.
Both were very vocal about re-instituting county paid health insurance for retired county employees. County council voted to phase this coverage out as a benefit too costly to continue.
Estimates from county staff project $6 million needed in the upcoming budget to continue health insurance payments for retired employees and continued, spiraling costs in future years. It takes three mills of county property tax to generate $6 million.
Lazarus has called health insurance payments for retired employees a ‘morale issue’ and Allen promised county employees he would re-institute the benefit if elected chairman.
However, neither has said how the cost would be covered. Next year’s state mandated property tax reassessment is expected to decrease the tax value of much of the property in the county with a resulting decrease in county tax revenues.
Would the candidates support a tax increase to honor this campaign pledge? Alternatively, what services would they cut to free up $6 million in the county budget?
Both have supported continuing economic development initiatives with Allen recently saying the county should stay the course with the five-year plan of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation. This means committing at least $1.8 million per year of county tax dollars to the EDC for three more years.
Based on EDC’s past performance, it is pertinent to ask how much more in county tax dollars the candidates are willing to commit in cash payments and/or other incentives to EDC projects.
Where will the money come from? What county services will be cut, if any, to provide the incentive money?
Or, is there a plan to provide dedicated millage to EDC as was requested two years ago?
Support for many road projects have also been heard from the candidates. How will they be paid for?
Does either candidate, or both, support extending and/or increasing hospitality taxes, capital projects sales taxes or road maintenance fees? Do they have some other funding mechanism in mind for new road projects? If so, what is it?
As we get down to the last 10 days of campaigning for the runoff election, both candidates owe the voters answers to these questions.
With only the possibility of a write-in candidate to oppose the runoff winner in a general election, the victor in this face-off will most probably be the next county council chairman.
It’s time for voters to stop giving a free pass to candidates on their campaign pledges and require them to provide specific answers, especially on those issues that will require additional revenue to fund.