By Paul Gable
Local tax increases and removal of the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds topped the 2015 SC Newsies.
Horry County Council passed the largest single tax increase in county history with a 7.2 mil increase in property taxes. Just for good measure, council also increased the road tax charged on every vehicle registered in the county by 67%.
Sold to the public as a means to increase public safety, the tax increase was really Horry County Council bowing to the will of county employees for a pay raise.
As council member Harold Worley said during debate of the tax increase, “Not one penny of the tax increase will go toward putting one extra officer on the street. Response times will not go down nor will community policing increase because of the tax increase.”
Adding insult to injury, the road annual tax was increased from $30 to $50 per vehicle, ostensibly to provide more money for maintenance of roads in the county road system.
Just a few months later, county council voted to use approximately $16 million in excess revenue from Ride II tax collections not for roads, but to buy a new radio system for public safety.
Five county council members will be up for re-election in 2016, but only one, Gary Loftus, voted to increase taxes.
Five of the six council members voting to raise taxes were elected or re-elected in 2014 and hope the voters will not remember this tax increase in 2018 when they face election again.
The statewide issue that was most intriguing was the removal of the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds.
This was done in just several days of a special session called by Gov. Nikki Haley. It demonstrated the General Assembly can act quickly when it wants to.
This special session followed a five month regular session when the General Assembly did absolutely nothing about the most important issues in the state – road maintenance and repair, ethics issues and school funding.
But, less than a week after a young white male gunned down nine black members at a historical black church in Charleston, Haley started the push for removal of the flag from the statehouse grounds.
As always with Haley, you have to wonder whether this was an effort to remove what some term as a symbol of ‘hate’ from the public eye or whether this move was calculated to raise her profile in the national spotlight.
The question remains, if the Confederate battle flag flying on statehouse grounds was so egregious, why did it take Haley into her second term, and only after the massacre in Charleston, to take action?
Those are the two issues we deem most newsworthy from 2015. We’ll have to wait to see what 2016 brings.