Post Tagged with: "tom rice"

Smooth Evacuation Contradicts I-73 Claims

September 3, 2019 9:23 AM
Smooth Evacuation Contradicts I-73 Claims

The Grand Strand evacuated Zone A yesterday in preparation of the oncoming Hurricane Dorian.

Zone A includes all properties east of U.S. 17, Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. In other words, the major portion of hotels along the Grand Strand and those permanent residents who evacuated.

The evacuation went smoothly – no major traffic jams on the routes out and no sitting in an idling car on the highways for hours at a time.

I personally drove to Myrtle Beach at 11:30 a.m. yesterday morning along S.C. 22 and back just after 3 p.m. Traffic going west on S.C. 22 on my trip in was the heaviest I have ever seen on that highway and I have lived here 15 years before that road was built.

Although the traffic was heavy, it was moving slowly but steadily and the traffic at the on ramp from S.C. 31 was about one mile long but moving.

When I went home, going west on S.C. 22 at three o’clock, there was no traffic to speak of all the way to Hwy 90 where I exited.

I have been told by locals who travelled U.S. 501 and Hwy 544, the same conditions prevailed – heavy traffic moving slow but steady and gone by mid-afternoon.

All of this was accomplished with normal traffic flow – no lane reversals on any of the highways.

This is the second year in a row that evacuation in preparation for an oncoming hurricane went this smoothly.

What does all of this mean? We DON’T need I-73 to ensure a safe, smooth evacuation from the Grand Strand.

Last year, after Hurricane Florence, Seventh District Congressman Tom Rice asked Gov. Henry McMaster to amend the state’s request for hurricane relief funds to include $348 million in immediate funding for I-73.

A statement on Rice’s Congressional website announcing the request read,” I wrote a letter to Governor Henry McMaster urging him to amend his application to the federal government for disaster relief from Hurricane Florence to include immediate funding for I-73 as an adequate evacuation route. In the wake of Hurricane Florence’s devastation, and the ongoing, life-threatening risks it poses to our residents, funding an adequate evacuation route for the Grand Strand needs to be a top priority.”

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County Council Kicks I-73 Decision Down the Road

August 29, 2019 8:12 AM
County Council Kicks I-73 Decision Down the Road

Horry County Council again dodged making a definitive decision on the I-73 contract with SCDOT at its special meeting Wednesday.

Instead of voting to cancel or go forward with the contract, council voted to defer a final decision until the end of the year.

In the meantime, council has asked the cities to step up with funding for the project or the county would be forced to cancel the contract by December 31, 2019.

In simple terms, the county does not have the ability to fund the up to $25 million per year currently promised in the contract. SCDOT has asked for $12.5 million in the first year, but plans to bond against $25 million per year in future years.

The City of Myrtle Beach continues to cloud the truth by saying the county can fund the contract with its hospitality fee revenues from the unincorporated areas. This is not true.

With the county now banned from collecting a 1.5% hospitality fee, the municipalities and the cities collecting their own hospitality and accommodations taxes, the county has no more than approximately $10 million it can designate for I-73.

In order to reach the $25 million per year called for in the SCDOT contract, Myrtle Beach would have to pledge approximately the same as the county, $10 million per year, and North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Conway, Loris, Aynor, Atlantic Beach and Briarcliff would have to combine to make up the remaining $5 million.

I don’t believe any of that is going to happen. Not only would the cities have to pledge the funds each year, there would need to be an intergovernmental between the county and the municipalities formalizing those commitments and each party would need to sign the contract with SCDOT.

Those are the details of what needs to happen to keep the SCDOT contract alive. However, there are other details that make keeping the contract more disturbing.

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High Drama Surrounds County’s I-73 Agreement with SCDOT

March 14, 2019 2:55 AM
High Drama Surrounds County’s I-73 Agreement with SCDOT

High drama surrounded a recent decision by the Horry County Council Infrastructure and Regulation Committee to consider changes and/or cancellation of the Financial Participation Agreement the county signed with SCDOT last December for the Interstate 73 project.

Like many issues in the political arena these days, this one included its share of drama queens heightening and confusing the discussion while voicing veiled threats about possible state government retaliation should local government officials significantly alter or cancel the agreement.

According to local council members who spoke with Grand Strand Daily, Reps. Russell Fry and Alan Clemmons as well as former representative and current Myrtle Beach Chamber lobbyist Mike Ryhal quickly took to phone calls and texts when they heard of the planned I&R discussion earlier this week.

Their collective message, reportedly, was leave the agreement alone or face the possibility of the General Assembly altering current state law to remove control of hospitality and accommodations tax revenue from local governments in favor of control in Columbia.

Ever since July 2017 when former county council chairman Mark Lazarus and members of county government senior staff led council down the path to partial funding of the I-73 project by removing a sunset provision from the county’s hospitality tax law, this controversy has been inevitable.

Despite massive propaganda efforts through the years by the Chamber and a few elected officials about the necessity of I-73 to provide a connection to Interstate 95, local residents have remained unconvinced of the purported benefits of the project.

Many of those who cried the loudest – the Chamber, Clemmons and U.S. Congressman Tom Rice – have been collectively unsuccessful at acquiring funding for the project at the state and federal levels.

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The I-73 Rush Is On for County Tax Dollars

November 25, 2018 7:20 AM
The I-73 Rush Is On for County Tax Dollars

The Horry County Council Fall Planning Retreat scheduled for Wednesday November 28, 2018 has an interesting agenda item regarding I-73.

Innocuously called “A Resolution Authorizing the County Administrator to Execute a Funding Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation”, the agreement would provide DOT with Hospitality Fee revenue in an amount up to $25 million per year for things such as right of way purchases, engineering and construction on the proposed road.

While it is called a funding participation agreement, Section IV B of the agreement specifically states “SCDOT makes no financial commitment pursuant to this agreement.”

In other words, Horry County will be the only governmental agency providing funds for the I-73 project if this agreement is signed. Horry County officials often complain about being a “donor” county to the State Treasury. Yet, in this agreement, they would consent to sending even more county tax revenue to Columbia.

Proponents of this agreement have argued that I-73 is an important road to Horry County and that the Hospitality Fee revenue will only fund right of way purchases, engineering and construction for the Horry County section of the road, which ends in the vicinity of Hwy 917 at the Marion County line.

There is absolutely no economic benefit nor evacuation benefit Horry County citizens will receive from a road that ends in that rural section of Horry County.

Marion and Dillon counties, the other two counties in the Southern Corridor of the proposed I-73 to Interstate 95, are in no position to spend even one dollar of tax revenue toward the project. The only way construction of the road is going to be funded through those counties is with state and federal tax dollars.

Grand Strand Daily has spoken with legislators around the state over the past several months regarding funding for I-73 from Columbia. The only conclusion that can be drawn from these conversations is that the SC General Assembly has no plans to provide funding in the near term future for construction of I-73.

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County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

July 27, 2018 4:10 AM
County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

Last Tuesday’s special meeting of Horry County Council provided some interesting insights into ongoing deliberations about the future use of hospitality tax revenue.

Technically called a hospitality fee by Horry County Government, the two and one-half percent tax is collected on all tourist accommodations, prepared foods and attraction tickets sold throughout the county. The revenue is split with one cent per dollar going to the jurisdiction (municipality or unincorporated county) in which it is collected.

The remaining one and one-half cent per dollar goes to the county to pay off Ride I bonds. Those bonds are expected to be paid off in the first half of calendar year 2019.

A sunset provision was placed on the one and one-half cent per dollar tax, when legislation implementing the tax in Horry County was passed, providing that portion of the tax would end when the bonds were paid off.

County council voted in Spring 2017 to remove the sunset provision and extend the tax indefinitely. The one and one-half cent per dollar tax is expected to generate $41 million revenue in calendar year 2019.

When the sunset provision was removed by a three reading ordinance of county council last spring, council chairman Mark Lazarus stated he would like to use the revenue to fund construction of Interstate 73. The projected revenue would have allowed the county to bond approximately $500 million for a 20-year period to help fund the I-73 project. It is expected completion of the I-73 portion from I-95 near Dillon to U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach will cost approximately $1.2 billion.

This spring, Johnny Gardner challenged Lazarus for the Republican nomination for council chairman on the November 2018 general election ballot. During the primary campaign, Gardner focused on the public safety and infrastructure needs of the county, proposing using a portion of hospitality tax revenue to help meet those needs. Gardner won the nomination in June 2018 primary voting.

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An Open Letter to the Citizens of House District 56

October 22, 2017 5:03 AM
An Open Letter to the Citizens of House District 56

I would like to thank any media and individuals who have chosen to post this letter to allow it to be read by the citizens of House District 56.

When I first decided to run for political office, many of my friends and coworkers questioned my sanity wondering why I wanted to get into such a corrupt, dirty business.

I told them because I believed District 56 needed someone who cared about fixing the crime and road problems in the district and who wouldn’t let the needs of District 56 be ignored anymore.

I said I may not win, but I was not going to be outworked. I was determined to meet and really talk to as many citizens as possible to hear their comments and complaints.

Going door to door in a political campaign allows you to meet many people who you otherwise may never meet in everyday life. I want to say it has been a privilege to meet many fine citizens in District 56 who care about their homes, neighborhood and quality of life as much as I do.

What I didn’t anticipate, as a novice candidate, is the extent to which big money and special interests were willing to go to influence the outcome of the race. That money is effectively paying for the campaign of one of my opponents, not by contributing directly to him, rather by paying for television and radio ads and direct mail pieces encouraging people to vote for him.

Regardless of how my opponent has attempted to claim ignorance of what is going on and to distance himself from the ads, the Myrtle Beach Chamber and its associates can be tied directly to his campaign.

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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.

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Final AvCraft Chapter?

June 16, 2016 6:16 AM
Final AvCraft Chapter?

The Horry County Transportation Committee voted earlier this week to write off $113,687 in unpaid rent from AvCraft Technical Services that the county will never collect anyway.

AvCraft filed for bankruptcy in March 2015 after an 11 year history of failing to make good on its promises to Horry County.

This should be the final chapter in the saga of local and state politicians, especially Horry County Council, looking at AvCraft through rose colored glasses in the name of economic development.

Since arriving to much hoopla in 2004, AvCraft was consistent in only two areas – it consistently failed to meet job goal promises and it consistently requested and received rent reductions on the three hangars at Myrtle Beach International it rented from the Horry County Department of Airports.

After eight years of failing to meet goals, Horry County Council tried one last time in January 2012 to help AvCraft save itself with the recommendation of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

One of the main items in that agreement was a $1.25 million reduction in rent on the county hangars over a five year period. This came after three earlier rent reductions, agreed to by the county, failed to make AvCraft profitable.

The following four comments made after the 2012 incentive package was approved demonstrate how far from reality politicians and their economic development arms exist from reality:

“I am thankful for the company’s commitment to Horry County and proud of our economic development team for this terrific announcement.” – Rep. Tom Rice.

“It’s another great day in South Carolina, and we are going to celebrate AvCraft’s decision to expand and create 150 new jobs in Horry County.” – Gov. Nikki Haley.

“AvCraft is a tremendous asset to our community, and this project is just the beginning for aviation-related businesses locating and expanding in the Myrtle Beach region.” – Doug Wendel, MBREDC board chairman at the time.

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Potential Buyer Looking at PTR Industries

April 28, 2016 7:16 AM
Potential Buyer Looking at PTR Industries

(Above Gov. Nikki Haley with a special edition assault rifle presented to her by PTR Industries}

A firm from New York state is reportedly looking at the possibility of buying PTR Industries, a deal that could save the company’s operations at Horry County’s Cool Springs Business Park.

PTR Industries was recruited to relocate from Connecticut to Horry County in 2013 by the Myrtle Beach Regional Development Corporation. This was touted as a major coup by MBREDC as Horry County was a successful bidder over several other states in landing PTR Industries.

A package that included an approximately $1 million upgrade of a county spec building at Cool Springs Business Park and incentive based job creation credits was put together by MBREDC and the SC Department of Commerce for PTR Industries.

The company brought approximately 21 workers with it from Connecticut and promised to create an additional 145 jobs in Horry County within three years.

PTR Industries commenced operations in Horry County in January 2014 and hired approximately 28 additional employees in the first months of its operations.

However, it quickly fell behind in its rent payments to Horry County for the Cool Springs Business Park building that is its headquarters and manufacturing location. One week after a Grand Opening celebration, in July 2014, that included appearances by Gov. Nikki Haley and local Congressman Tom Rice, PTR Industries laid off some workers and instituted a 10% across the board pay cut to those remaining.

Since then, PTR Industries has struggled. According to several sources, Horry County Council restructured its rent deal with PTR Industries last fall in order to help the company become current.

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7th Congressional District GOP Convention Report

April 11, 2016 4:40 AM
7th Congressional District GOP Convention Report

The 7th Congressional District GOP Convention held in Florence on Saturday April 9, 2016, to select a new 7th C D Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary as well as Republican National delegates (6) to the National Convention in Cleveland on July 18-21 2016 at the “Q” Arena, was hectic.

There is no question Horry County who had 39 voting delegates with 3 alternates (42 total) who attended, came home with only 2 elected National delegates–Alan Clemmons delegate and Gerri McDaniel alternate.

Meanwhile Florence County, who only assembled 23 attending delegates, received the lion share of National delegates and an alternate. There’s no question that the members of the delegation from Florence out maneuvered Horry County as they pooled their votes, having only 6 people running and had 3 delegates making it to the top.

Horry County had 19 delegates running, which cut into its vote count. Consequently no one received more than 20 votes. Hard ball won the day. The other National delegate went to Jerry Rovner of Georgetown who is the present chairman of the 7th CD. With regards to Clemmons and McDaniel they had the good fortune of getting some votes from other delegates.

Some of Horry’s convention attendees are blaming Chairman Robert Rabon for the blow out. To be fair it is NOT Rabon’s fault, and anyone suggesting or saying it is just doesn’t know the facts. Prior to the meeting Chairman Rabon urged the Party members who were going to go to Florence, to only select 6 delegates and as such with 39 voters; the 6 that were chosen would have won handily.

Rabon tried to caution the delegation about this, but it landed on deaf ears. Hopefully, Horry County will learn from this experience and be better organized in the future; no one enjoys losing especially when they are holding all the aces.

At the opening of the meeting at 10:15 AM the chairman of the 7th C D Jerry Rovner gave a extra-ordinary powerful message, one of which was right on point, the essence of which was:

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