By Paul Gable
Horry County voters will be asked to tax themselves for another seven years for what is known as RIDE III.
The referendum question will ask voters to approve an additional one-cent sales tax for seven years with the proceeds going to road projects.
When the Capital Projects Sales Tax legislation was initially approved by the SC General Assembly over 20 years ago, its goal was to provide a funding mechanism for the Conway Bypass Project, or what we now call S.C. 22.
A one-cent additional sales tax levied for seven years to pay for the county’s portion of the cost of construction of S.C. 22 wasn’t a bad idea. The projects now proposed are in the “nice to have”, instead of a justifiable “must have”, category.
But, a tax once levied is a difficult thing to do away with and creative ways were found to extend this taxing ability to other jurisdictions.
Since the initial RIDE I project constructed S.C. 22, politicians have found (manufactured?) justifications to ask voters to make this a recurring tax in Horry County.
The politicians found this was such an easy sale to the voters that RIDE II was added in 2006, a one-cent sales tax for school construction was added in 2008 and the one-cent sales tax for tourism advertising was added in Myrtle Beach in 2009.
Of course, the tourism tax was never subjected to a referendum by voters because that would probably have failed at the ballot box. Instead, our local legislative delegation and Myrtle Beach City Council conspired to have that tax approved by a super majority vote of city council.
In my opinion, we have reached the point where one-cent local option sales taxes are out of control in Horry County.
This is especially true in the case of the tourism tax where citizens are forced to pay increased taxes in order to reduce the marketing budgets of Myrtle Beach hoteliers and golf course owners.
Many of the largest beneficiaries of the tourism tax aren’t even American citizens. But, that’s the subject of another article.
Suffice it to say I would enjoy seeing voters reject the RIDE III referendum if for no other reason than to send a message to local politicians that these taxes are not automatic and a better case for levying them should be required before they are approved.