Grand Strand lawmakers propose bill to use hospitality tax money for I-73

Grand Strand

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – Four Grand Strand lawmakers are trying to resolve the hospitality tax legal battle in Horry County and secure funding for Interstate 73.

The county, its cites and towns have fought for almost a year over control of tourist tax money, so some lawmakers are trying to force them to make a deal.

“We don’t want to have to do this in Columbia,” said Rep. Russell Fry, R-Surfside Beach. “We hope that the locals can figure it out amongst themselves.”

Rep. Fry is co-sponsoring a bill, which would put that money from cities, towns and the county towards building I-73. The bill was introduced Tuesday and is in the House’s ways and means committee.

Rep. Fry says they need to contribute enough money to get help from the state and federal governments.

“It’s going to require a local match,” he said. “You look at Charleston as an example. I-526 is being built with predominantly local money through a local sales tax initiative. Here, it’s maybe a third.”

Before the cities and towns filed the lawsuit, Horry County Council pledged up to $25 million in hospitality taxes towards I-73. Council voted to leave that agreement in November.

“They need to honor that promise, have that local match, allow us in Columbia and Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) in D.C. to go advocate for the road on our levels,” said Rep. Fry.

Under this bill, tourist tax revenue not put towards I-73 would be given back to the municipality where it was generated.

Rep. Fry says he hopes both sides reach an agreement soon.

“It’s very silent and that’s concerning to me because, at the end of the day, leaders need to lead,” he said. “They need to sit down together. They need to figure this out.”

County council is expected to get more legal advice on the lawsuit Tuesday.

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