Post Tagged with: "tax increase"

Meet Mark Then and Now

May 28, 2018 3:45 AM
Meet Mark Then and Now

The Mark Lazarus Campaign for Chairman of Horry County Council sent its first mailer to voters over the weekend.

I was happy to see a quote from me in a 2013 article in Grand Strand Daily appeared prominently in the mailer. The quote was complimentary of Lazarus’ first months as chairman.

I’m not sure what the reasoning behind using the quote was or who in the campaign made the decision to use it, but if it was his consultants’ idea, he needs to get new ones.

The quote, rather than discrediting what I have written recently about Lazarus, adds credibility to what I have always told politicians – ‘When I think you’re doing a good job, I will be happy to compliment you. When I think you’re doing a bad job, I won’t hesitate to criticize you.’

Over the last three years, I have been highly critical of Lazarus because I believe he has not been doing a good job as chairman.

When running for reelection in 2014, Lazarus told voters he would “oppose new taxes.” Shortly after successfully winning reelection, Lazarus led council into passing the largest single property tax increase in Horry County history. In addition, council increased road maintenance fees by 67%.

More recently, Lazarus led county council into extending the county wide hospitality tax for an indefinite period in the future despite having no specific plans as to what it would be used for.

Why? Because in Lazarus’ words, if it wasn’t extended, it would be lost.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe a politician should honor his campaign promises otherwise how are we to believe anything he says?

Such as – County council had to spend $12 million for 3,729 acres of swamp land off of International Drive because it was a great deal for the county. The purchase was discussed quietly in secret before being quickly voted on by council.

Read more ›

NMB TDF Vote Today

March 5, 2018 6:30 AM
NMB TDF Vote Today

North Myrtle Beach voters will go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether a Tourism Development Fee will be instituted in the city.

I support the decision of the North Myrtle Beach City Council to allow this decision to be left up to the voters. Additionally, I support statements from council that, if passed, only the minimum TDF revenue required by law would be used for owner-occupied property tax relief with the majority of that revenue used to benefit all the citizens of the city with improved infrastructure.

The TDF was introduced to the state and this area in 2009. Since that time, it has been my opinion the TDF is used in Myrtle Beach to benefit the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, certain large business owners in that city and residents who live in high end homes.

The North Myrtle Beach approach is significantly different. The city is demonstrating it is not Myrtle Beach in the way TDF funds will be used if the referendum passes.

Since the recent North Myrtle Beach city council budget retreat, it appears city residents are in for some type of tax increase. A property tax increase of 2-3 mills was discussed by council at the retreat.

During presentations about the TDF, City Manager Mike Mahaney discussed the need to find a funding source to address parking problems around the city because public safety people are being tied up dealing with parking problems when they could be better utilized performing other duties.

If the TDF passes, city revenue from the fee could be the funding source for addressing parking problems, which would also benefit public safety by freeing personnel for other needs. Revenue for marketing North Myrtle Beach would be used to promote the North Myrtle Beach brand in order to maintain a strong economy in the city.

Mahaney said one mill of property tax brings in revenue of $375,000 to the city. Three mills, therefore, would bring the city an additional $1,125,000 in revenue for parking and other infrastructure.

Read more ›

Tom Rice and Private Equity Tax Increases

April 29, 2017 4:38 PM
Tom Rice and Private Equity Tax Increases

(The following is a op-ed piece sent to Grand Strand Daily. Pictured above is the writer.)

By John Bonsignor

Recently, Rep. Tom Rice caught flack for his support of certain tax increases being discussed in Washington D.C., and rightfully so.

He rebuffed those claims, stating in a McClatchy news article “that his goal was to tackle tax code changes by making the American economy competitive without increasing taxes.”

A specific example of this is his support of increasing taxes on private equity partnerships’ carried interest. Carried interest is currently taxed at a capital gains rate. Rice, along with many Democrats, want to raise it to the level of ordinary income rates. It’s currently (and appropriately) taxed at the capital gains rate due to the long-held nature of the investment and the sweat equity poured into a business, all principles that are the cornerstone of our American economy.

Rice is a real estate investor and tax accountant. While his tax increase wouldn’t impact his investments, it would hurt private equity investors and their ability to reinvest into our economy.

Is Rice looking out for the economy? Or himself?

It appears Rice is in love with tax increases when he should be against them.

Read more ›

Additional Funding for Coast RTA

December 5, 2016 5:42 AM
Additional Funding for Coast RTA

The message from last week’s Horry County Transportation Committee meeting was Horry County Council would search for ways to provide additional funding for Coast RTA.

The transportation agency currently receives $1.055 million annually from the county’s general fund budget. According to remarks by council chairman Mark Lazarus, Coast RTA would like that amount to rise to approximately $1.9 million per year.

In addition, Coast RTA wants to spend a total of approximately $16 million on capital improvements for the system over the next several years. It should be noted, all of this money does not have to come from the county or other local government funding sources. The federal government provides 80% funding for capital expenditures with a 20% local match.

Still, $3.33 million must come from some form of local funding for these capital projects to be realized.

“We’ve got to figure out how to fund them,” Lazarus said during the meeting.

Lazarus said Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge was investigating ways to provide Coast RTA with recurrent funding. Lazarus said a one-cent local option sales tax was one possibility that would be looked at.

During the discussion, Lazarus made one comment I didn’t understand. He said state law prohibits the use of (property tax) millage from being used to fund transportation.

However, property tax millage is exactly what is being used now and has been for years to provide Coast RTA with annual grants from Horry County.

An additional one-cent sales tax is unacceptable, in our opinion. A one-cent tax was just approved by voters for RIDE III last month. If a sales tax is the preferred way to fund Coast RTA, it should have been included in the list of projects for RIDE III, a perfectly acceptable use of RIDE funds if it had been included in the project list.

Read more ›

NMB Council Blinks on Tourism Tax

July 30, 2016 5:13 AM
NMB Council Blinks on Tourism Tax

The North Myrtle Beach city council decided Friday that the voters would have a say on whether or not a tourism tax to benefit the NMB Chamber of Commerce will be imposed within the city limits.

The decision occurred during a public workshop on whether a local one-cent sales tax should be charged on sales within the city. At least 80% of the proceeds of the tax would go to the NMB Chamber to fund tourism marketing and advertising expenses that should be a responsibility of individual business owners.

The concept of a publicly elected body taxing citizens for the benefit of private businesses is abhorrent in any scenario, but, not allowing the voters a say in the process, as is practiced in Myrtle Beach, borders on dictatorial.

At least for now, the NMB Council nipped in the bud the question of whether to impose the tax by supermajority vote of council members, the way it was made law in Myrtle Beach.

NMB Mayor Marilyn Hatley alluded to a January or February 2017 time frame for a special election referendum question on whether to impose the tourism tax, but council would have to pass an ordinance on the tax before the referendum question.

The dynamics of a special election, with its traditional minimalist draw of voters, still allows the Chamber a better than average chance of winning the tax vote if a referendum is held.

But, it is better than in Myrtle Beach where the voters have no say at all.

The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce was established nearly 20 years ago with the specific goal of drawing additional tourists during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

Funding for the NMB Chamber came from membership fees and the 30% of accommodations tax revenues collected in the city.

According to sources familiar with the Chamber, in recent years it has added employees and expenses, thereby eating up its funding.

Read more ›

Greed is Good Fever Strikes North Myrtle Beach

July 29, 2016 5:28 AM
Greed is Good Fever Strikes North Myrtle Beach

It appears ‘greed is good’ fever has struck in North Myrtle Beach as the city considers implementing a one-cent tourism development fee (tax) to follow in the footsteps of Myrtle Beach.

If there is one governmental entity I wouldn’t think other governmental entities would want to copy, it is Myrtle Beach City Council. But, never mind.

The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce wants North Myrtle Beach city council to copy Myrtle Beach city council in implementing a tax on private citizens to pay for business marketing.

The Chamber evidently believes the money belongs to it rather than to the citizens. Consider the following quote by former Chamber board chairman Bill Griste in a letter to North Myrtle Beach City Council.

“We feel that leaving this significant and large amount of marketing revenue unused would not be a wise move for the City of North Myrtle Beach, nor would be good stewards of this resource.” Bill Griste

Think about that quote for a minute. The resource Griste is talking about is money in the pockets of citizens – A “significant and large amount,” according to him.

Being good stewards apparently means taxing the citizens to pay for the marketing costs of private business. In other words, the Chamber advocates corporate welfare as good stewardship of private dollars – A very interesting concept in a supposedly conservative area.

By that logic, allowing citizens to keep any of their hard earned money, instead of taking it all in taxes, means the government is not being good stewards of the resource (private dollars).

Sorry, I forgot, these aren’t “taxes” they are “fees”. It’s irrelevant that they are charged on the purchase price of items at the checkout counter.

Read more ›

SC Senate Committee Approves Gas Tax Hike

February 5, 2016 5:10 AM
SC Senate Committee Approves Gas Tax Hike

The SC Senate Finance Committee voted 14-8 this week to approve a 12 cents per gallon gas tax hike for next year’s budget.

This move was part of an overall vote to replace a SC House road repair plan, approved last year, with one written by the Senate. The House plan approved a 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase.

The Senate plan includes more revenue raising proposals including an increase in driver’s license fees, an increase to a maximum cap of $600 sales tax on a vehicle, up from the current $300. Also included were additional fees on hybrid and electrical vehicles.

The House plan provided for a small cut of state income tax while the Senate plan provides for no tax cuts.

If the Senate plan gains approval from the full Senate, it will have to go back to the House for approval. However, several senators have already placed the plan on the contested calendar meaning the full Senate will have to vote to bring the bill before the full body.

Additionally, if Gov. Nikki Haley sticks to her word, she will veto the plan, if it ultimately passes both houses, because no offsetting tax cuts are included.

It is interesting to note, Senate proponents of the plan are already broadcasting how much of the tax will be paid by non-SC residents. The current estimate is 30%.

This is always an interesting argument that proponents of tax hikes always use to make the tax more palatable for their non-thinking constituents. Tell them how much will be paid by tourists or other outside groups.

What is never mentioned is South Carolina residents will be paying 100% of the tax year around. What percentage of gross revenues may come from tourists or others traveling through the state is really not a consideration for the South Carolina citizens who will be paying the increased tax all the time.

This debate will only become more interesting as the legislative year progresses.

Read more ›

New Year for Horry County Council

January 6, 2016 5:26 AM
New Year for Horry County Council

The New Year is starting out in strange fashion for Horry County Council as its first meeting will be held Thursday night.

Regular council meetings are normally held the first and third Tuesday’s of each month. I understand scheduling conflicts for some of the members moved the first meeting in January two days.

The New Year is starting out where last year left off as far as changes with council are concerned.

Horry County experienced a 44% turnover rate in council membership in 2015 with three new members elected to begin the year and two more new members joining the council in special elections during 2015.

The last of those new members, Jimmy Washington from District 3, won election December 22nd and will be attending his first meeting Thursday night.

The two newest members, Washington and Cam Crawford from District 6, won special elections for unexpired terms that end this year. They will be facing re-election contests in 2016.

But, it wasn’t just membership that changed on Horry County Council in 2015.

In my opinion, there was a rather cavalier attitude toward spending the people’s money that was much more disturbing.

Not only did a majority of council pass the largest property tax increase in county history in 2015, they also increased road vehicle tax by 67%.

Read more ›

Taxes, Flag Top 2015 SC Newsies

January 1, 2016 6:44 AM
Taxes, Flag Top 2015 SC Newsies

Local tax increases and removal of the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds topped the 2015 news stories.

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.

Read more ›

Roads, Radios, Taxes and Horry County Council

November 18, 2015 6:00 AM
Roads, Radios, Taxes and Horry County Council

The next time we hear Horry County Council members talk about raising taxes, let’s move immediately for recall elections.

There is no provision for recall of elected officials in the state constitution. But, this is the Independent Republic the law doesn’t really apply here anyway.

Certainly very little fiscal responsibility does.

Last spring six members of Horry County Council were determined to raise property taxes by 7.2 mils, the largest increase allowed by law.

Why? Because the county was running out of money and all the county employees, especially public safety, needed pay raises. Or so county council told us at the time.

We were told the road maintenance tax had to be raised by 67% or roads in the county system couldn’t be maintained.

Remember all the talk about the county looking at removing roads from the county road system?

Five months down the road, all that is forgotten. Horry County Council got the tax increases it wanted and business as usual reigns again in Conway.

Tomorrow, the county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee will consider recommending seven resolutions to accept new roads and drainage into the County Maintenance System.

An early prediction is they will all pass.

Horry County Council is two-thirds of the way, with third reading passage of the ordinance guaranteed, to use approximately $16 million in excess revenue from Ride II tax collections for a new 900 MHz radio system for countywide communications.

The Ride II (Riding on a Penny) referendum was passed by the voters of the county to build roads. However, now that there is excess revenue from it Horry County Council quickly found a way to spend that excess in another area.

In 1993, when the current 800 MHZ system was first put in place, county and city officials were told it would have a lifespan of approximately 25 years. Motorola, the system provider, told county officials it would stop servicing the 800 MHz system at the end of next year.

Did Horry County Council establish some type of escrow fund so the money for a new system would be there when it was needed?

Of course not!

Read more ›