The Road Referendum Fact vs. Fiction
Friday, October 24, 2014on
The Chamber of Commerce supports the November 4th Roads Referendum and urges our investors, the business community, and the public to vote “YES”. We helped found a community coalition that is fighting hard for the referendum’s passage. Opposing the coalition is a group well known for making outlandish claims with no ground in fact. We’d like to dispel a number of those claims today. “County Council can change the list of projects to whatever it wants.” FICTION. This comes from a very erroneous reading of the ordinance. The County Council operates on a 2-year budget, so every two years of the 8-year lifetime of the tax, the Council will have to approve a list of projects. One Council can’t bind the next Council. But, the ordinance goes on to say that the language “shall not” mean the Council can deviate from the detailed list of projects approved by Council and available here. “The state has the money to repair the roads.” FICTION. If you drive 15,000 miles a year, and get 20 miles per gallon, you pay enough gas tax to pave 7 feet of road (we have 216 million feet of state road in South Carolina). The state’s plan for roads has us in a situation where 70% of our roads are rated “poor,” and at the current rate, some Greenville roads won’t be re-paved until 2097. Clearly, the money the state is spending on roads isn’t enough. “Only 4 cents out of the 16 cents in gas tax returns to Greenville County.” FICTION. According to the numbers, from 2002 through 2011, Greenville County bought 2.2 billion gallons of gasoline and paid $353 million in taxes on that gas. We received $567 million in funded road projects from the Department of Transportation. We actually received 27 cents in projects for every 16 cents in gas tax Greenville sent to Columbia. “It will be a $300 tax burden on Greenville families.” FICTION. According to Clemson University, it will cost an additional $119 per household. To cost an additional $300 per year, a family would have to spend $30,000 a year in purchasing taxable items. The household income in Greenville County is only $42,000. That claim is patently ridiculous, since most of our income goes to housing, electricity, water, and other non-taxable items. “Not all of the money will be spent in Greenville County.” SHRED OF TRUTH. It makes for a nice talking point, but only a tiny fraction of the money collected will be held at the Department of Revenue as a fee. More than 99% of the money will flow through the Department of Revenue (the agency that collects sales tax) and be sent back to a special account at Greenville County each quarter. “This will cost Greenville County taxpayers $65 million a year.” FICTION. Clemson University and other studies have shown that up to 30% of the revenue will come from people from outside our County. What really costs Greenville County taxpayers is the more than $250 a year the DOT estimates we spend in maintenance on our cars due to poor roads. At the end of the day, we need a 21st Century infrastructure in Greenville County to speed commerce and ensure we can continue to grow our economy. In nearly every survey, infrastructure concerns are at the top of the list for many businesses – right up there with education and a qualified workforce. This may be an imperfect solution to the problem at hand, but it is our solution. It is a local solution to a major local problem. We humbly ask that you join the Chamber and our local coalition in voting “YES” on November 4th.