A Few Final Thoughts on the Referendum

As we draw closer to election day and the looming sales tax referendum vote, many people have asked me if Greenville County should commit themselves to a $670 million sales tax increase over the next 8 years to fund road and bridge repair.

First, I would never tell a person how to vote on a tax referendum, but I will share some random thoughts:

1. We would not be facing this referendum if the General Assembly had addressed the infrastructure repair problem years ago when SCDOT warned them.

2. We are voting for a $673 million dollar sales tax increase on ourselves that we will pay over an 8 year period. That comes out to about $1,200 per person after reducing the amount by the estimated tax paid by outsiders.

3. We have a good idea of where the money will be spent – something not always clear with projects defined in Columbia.

4. If the General Assembly happens to significantly increase funding for roads, then we may lose out on some of that new funding if we have already completed projects that were on SCDOT’s priority list – but only if the projects are non-federal aid. That’s a lot of confusing “ifs.”

5. Greenville County confused the issue by not understanding how the sales tax on food was written in the state code of laws. Legislators are promising that the General Assembly will fix that if the referendum passes. It should be fixable, but it is a roll of the dice.

6. The success of Greenville County is not a mistake. It has taken years of planning and hard work by multiple generations of citizens. Regardless of where you think the money should come from, the fact remains that our roads are in bad repair. Can we afford to wait on the State to clean up its act? If we wait, will the delay cause unforeseen damage to our economy in the next decade?

Ultimately, we have two bad choices. You decide which choice further perpetuates problems or provides solutions.

 

 

The Big Answer to the Big Question About the County Sales Tax Referendum

As a reminder, I asked the following in an earlier post:

The Big Question – Does the passage of the referendum in any way reduce the amount of money spent by DOT in Greenville in the future?

For example, if the three projects (itemized on the referendum) are on the DOT priority list but are funded by local referendum, will Greenville lose our ranking while other projects in other counties take our place on the DOT list? Will Greenville end up paying for projects, that had we waited, DOT would have completed?

The Big Answer was provided today by an official at SCDOT:

Generally speaking, a sales tax initiative would have no effect on the level of transportation funding currently provided by SCDOT to Greenville County.  Federal aid and state resurfacing dollars are distributed among the 46 counties by formula and Greenville would continue to get their allocation.  Likewise the GPATS MPO and Appalachian GOG funding allocations will remain unchanged.

Several of our programs like interstate, safety, and bridge are prioritized and funded on a statewide basis.  In other words, funds are distributed based purely on need and not split by formula across the 46 counties.  If Greenville county were to pursue a bridge project that we are currently planning to fund, we would simply go to the next project on the Act 114 list which may or may not be in Greenville county.

So, there you go.

The Great Cannabis Gubernatorial Debate at Furman

I attended the final gubernatorial debate at Furman University last night.

Some random observations:

McAlister Auditorium had tumbleweeds blowing through it as the debate’s few attendees huddled close to the stage. It seemed that those few students attending were solely there to receive a one hour CLP credit.

As the candidates filed onto the stage, a few students did cheer. These were not College Republicans but rather a small group of hazy supporters rooting for the United Citizen’s candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves, whose primary campaign platform is the legalization and proliferation of marijuana.

Though the debate was about education and healthcare, I would have asked each candidate to speculate on the steep rise of voter apathy. Remember, Greenville had a political rally in 2008 that drew 7,000 people. Six years later, these candidates could not pull a 100.

Reeves solution for every question was to legalize marijuana. How can students improve test scores? Legalize pot. Should we expand Medicaid? Only if it covers weed.

Libertarian Steve French held . . . you know . . . libertarian beliefs. He also liked Reeves marijuana position . . . a lot. He was the only candidate to reference “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

Tom Ervin raised several good points that need answers but never raised his anger level. Which is a shame since the only reason to run as an independent is because you are mad.

Sen. Vincent Sheheen hit Gov. Haley hard about agency performance, most particularly the death of children under the watch of DSS. But like Ervin, he did not seem particularly outraged. He did seem sad, but then he is in the General Assembly.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s defense mechanisms were in good working order, so she did not sustain much damage from the other four candidates. She wore a red dress but it was lost in the eye-ripping red backdrop behind the candidates. Even my eyes felt red by the end of the debate.

For the life of me, I cannot remember what any of them said about their vision for South Carolina. Maybe it was that haze drifting from the back of the auditorium . . .

That could also explain my red eyes . . .

Finally, back in the old days, Southern political debates were high drama. Our candidates, fueled by bootleg whisky and good Baptist outrage, were known for their energized rhetorical skills, if not necessarily their knowledge. They would have laughed these stoner wannabes off the stage.

Nowadays, debates just resemble cheaply made game shows where no one wins.

Answers? Who Needs Answers?

In my previous post, I asked The Big Question regarding the impending Greenville County sales tax referendum for road repair.

The Big Question – Does the passage of the referendum in any way reduce the amount of money spent by DOT in Greenville in the future?

Since DOT projects come from their priority list and if we use our referendum sales tax revenue to complete a project from the DOT list, would we retain our position (and allocated budget) on the DOT list or do we lose our position?

So far, the House budget committee lawyers saw no provision in the referendum or in state law that addresses this concern. The DOT position remains that Greenville County will not lose funds, but cannot cite a specific code section or regulation.

 

The Big Question About the County Sales Tax Referendum

Per the ordinance approved by Greenville County Council, of the total $673,193,630 for four projects only three of the projects are directly related to roads, bridges and highway and road improvements. Those projects total $625,570,000. Only these three projects would be eligible for SCDOT’s priority list.

The Big Question – Does the passage of the referendum in any way reduce the amount of money spent by DOT in Greenville in the future?

For example, if these three projects are on the DOT priority list but are funded by local referendum, will Greenville lose our ranking while other projects in other counties take our place on the DOT list? Will Greenville end up paying for projects, that had we waited, DOT would have completed?

I have asked our House budget committee staff to research this question with SCDOT.

Tommy Stringer