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Position recommendation on 2016 Charleston County proposed ½ Cent Sales Tax Referendum
Charleston County Council has voted to place two questions on the ballot this November asking voters to approve an additional ½ cent sales tax to fund infrastructure, mass transit, and greenspace. The Chamber has used its normal decision-making process in evaluating this proposed referendum – beginning with the Infrastructure Vision Task Force, Business Advocacy Committee, and this past Friday, the Executive Committee. At each stage in the evaluative process, the recommendation has been for the Chamber to not take a position and/or remain neutral on the referendum.
Following the Executive Committee meeting on Friday, new information was presented to the Chamber from Charleston County and the City of Charleston for consideration. On Monday of this week, Chairman Scott Woods, Immediate Past Chairman Laura Varn, Chairman-elect Patrick Bryant, First Vice Chairman Mark Lattanzio, former Infrastructure Vison Task Force Chairman Robby Robbins, Bryan Derreberry, Mary Graham, and George Ramsey met with Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey to discuss a recent proposal that the County and City of Charleston have made to the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB) in order to restore its funding for 526 completion.
The proposal to the SIB ties the issue directly to the passage of the ½ cent sales tax referendum. The County and City propose that approximately $150 million of the ½ cent proceeds would be used to fund and build overpasses in North Charleston and Charleston that support the opening of the new Leatherman Port Terminal on the former Navy Base.
The overpasses were promised to Mayor Keith Summey, City of North Charleston, at the time the state made the decision to build the rail yard adjacent to the new terminal. The state does not currently have the funding to build the overpasses. The railroad companies servicing the terminal/naval rail yard have determined that as many as four trains per day will be exiting and entering the south end of the rail yard and thus impacting Meeting Street in the City of Charleston.
Without an overpass in this area, road traffic will be significantly impacted \resulting in much greater congestion. In exchange for funding the overpasses, the SIB is being asked to restore the $420 million in funding for the completion of 526. SC DOT has been part of the discussions with the SIB, County, and City as the agreement has been formulated and is lending its full support to the proposal’s adoption.
Chairman Elliott Summey indicated the other projects listed in the County ordinance, outlining road improvements the ½ cent will cover, will remain fully intact and that the County will re-create the Transportation Advisory Board originally created when the 2004 ½ referendum was passed. The purpose of the TAB is to have an oversight group, in place, to ensure County Council carries out the road projects in the manner voters supported.
RECOMMENDED BOARD POSITION:
The Board of the Chamber supports the proposed ½ cent sales tax referendum in Charleston County and the proposal provided to the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Both proposal’s success are tied to one another and will provide funding for completion of the Mark Clark Extension, the construction of the needed overpasses to allow the opening of the Leatherman Terminal and will also provide funding for a number of Chamber infrastructure priorities including Highway 41 widening, the overpass at Highway 17 and Main Road, Airport Area Infrastructure Improvements, Bus Rapid Transit and CARTA.
Chamber Board adopted this recommended support position at its Friday, September 23, 2016 Board of Directors’ meeting.