I-526 was never part of sales tax increase referendum

I-526 was never part of sales tax increase referendum
October 16 18:01 2016 Print This Article

Lowcountry WatchdogOne of the key votes we will take on election day in Charleston County is a referendum on whether to increase our sales tax from 8.5% to 9% to fund transportation projects and undefined “green space” purchases. Charleston County already has the highest sales tax rate in South Carolina.

The Charleston County staff conducted five pubic meetings on the referendum and thousands of surveys were completed by county residents. The road projects listed in the survey did not include the completion of I-526. The results of the survey were never released to the public.

The Post and Courier recently ran a misleading headline about the status of the “I-526 sales tax referendum”. The newspaper cited comments by County Council Chairman Elliott Summey to I-526 opposition groups as a reason why the tax increase measure is on shaky ground.

There are many reasons to oppose the sales tax increase. The greatest is the disclaimer that none of the projects are binding. County Council can vote to spend the $2.1 Billion in additional taxes however it chooses.

Other sticking points for many taxpayers are the large funding commitments for bus services and “green space”. There are many Charleston County bus routes in suburban areas running without passengers. County staff is committed to opening a “rapid bus transit” system from Summerville to downtown Charleston. No survey has been released showing that there is consumer demand to ride the proposed 16-stop bus system.

In September, a letter from Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and Chairman Summey went out to the state Transportation Infrastructure Bank board of directors that the sales tax increase referendum would include $150 Million in funding for railroad overpasses for the new port facility at the former Navy base in North Charleston. While those overpasses are needed, they were never disclosed in the public meetings held on the referendum.

I have no confidence that the funds from the $2.1 Billion dollar sales tax increase will be spent wisely or that the completion of I-526 will be included in it.  I encourage voters to oppose the referendum.

How are you casting your ballot on the .5% sales tax increase referendum November 8?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Lowcountry Source (LoSo).