The opponents of the Lexington County “Penny for Pavement” continue to intentionally confuse the voters about the issues and insult our intelligence by nonsensically stating that a penny is somehow more than a penny; or that the penny increase won’t sunset after 8 years despite state law specifically requiring it. Moreover, the opposition disregards the fact that the process to select the list of projects funded by the penny was refreshingly open and transparent without political influence.
Without offering any alternative funding plan, the opponents somehow believe that our crumbling roads and insufficient infrastructure will just fix themselves; that population growth resulting in clogged roads and rain that causes street flooding will just go away; and we need to accept that emergency services vehicles will not be able to timely respond to emergency situations due to road congestion. Ironically, the very thing that the opponents most want to avoid—an increase in the property tax—may very well occur if the Penny referendum is NOT passed!
The facts behind the proposed penny sales tax increase are simple and straightforward. First, the ability of Lexington County’s citizens to vote on increasing the sales tax by one penny was initially approved by our representatives in the General Assembly. Second, each municipality submitted, after hearings and recorded votes in public session, a list of road and infrastructure projects to be funded by the proposed Penny increase. Next, to avoid the influence of political influence, a commission of citizens representing each area of the county reviewed each project submission and ranked the projects according to critical need and benefit to the county.
After months of study, this commission submitted a final list to County Council, which could not change the order of the projects, nor include or exclude any projects. All county council could do is vote to let the citizens exercise their right to vote whether or not to raise the sales tax to fund these projects. The council, after three public readings and a public hearing, agreed to do just this and the referendum is now on the November 4th ballot. In fact, the process is so transparent that all the projects and the cost for each are included on the ballot for the voters to see!
Another fact that the opposition fails to mention is that the total cost of the priority projects to be funded by the penny tax revenue is actually much less than the amount that the Department of Revenue has estimated will be collected by the increase. This conservative approach makes sense. Only when there is additional sales tax revenue available will the non-priority projects be undertaken. County council has the option to issue bonds to facilitate the completion of the projects, with the proceeds from the sales tax used to repay the bonds. Taking advantage of present-day low bond rates and construction costs is fiscally prudent and avoids “kicking the can” down the road for our children to address.
It is undisputed that we have a problem and we have to fix it. Throughout Lexington County we can see our deteriorating roads. We all complain about the increasing traffic problems. We have all wondered how an ambulance or fire truck can navigate our roads. We have heard for years about street flooding. We have all experienced potholes resulting in damage to our vehicles. It is also a fact that Lexington County is projected to grow another 23% in the next 10 years, and with growth comes more strain on our roads, public safety, municipal services, water and sewer needs, and recreation as well. County council and the municipalities can address these needs either through an increase in property taxes—a burden that is limited only to property owners–or we can vote to implement a penny sales tax increase dedicated solely to roads and infrastructure needs for a limited period of 8 years that will be paid by residents and non-residents alike. Frankly, this option is the most fair and makes the most sense.
The Penny for Pavement is just that—a mere penny—that will finally begin to address the road and infrastructure needs that we desperately need, and that we all know cannot be delayed further into the future. A vote for the Penny in November is a vote for roads, a vote for safety, a vote for quality of life, and a vote for the most fair and logical approach to addressing Lexington County’s infrastructure needs.
–Tiffany Heitzman, CEO of Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce
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