COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – Nearly a dozen state lawmakers from the Grand Strand sided with Horry County in an ongoing battle with cities and towns over hospitality tax revenue.
Rep. Russell Fry, R-Surfside Beach, is one sponsor of a bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives that would allow Horry County to continue to collect hospitality tax money. That would stop towns and cities like Myrtle Beach that want to keep the revenue.
Rep. Fry says he and his colleagues waited several months for local governments to deal with the issue, but are stepping in after seeing a stalemate.
“People are not meeting,” Rep. Fry said. “They need to be coming to a resolution.”
Rep. Fry says Myrtle Beach’s lawsuit against Horry County puts money for emergency services and infrastructure in jeopardy.
“If you don’t know what’s coming in, you don’t know how to budget,” he said. “You don’t know what you can do. Certainly, there are public safety needs all across, from the city of Myrtle Beach, all the way through Horry County.”
Rep. Fry says the tourist tax fight also hurts Interstate 73, a project Horry County Council promised millions towards annually.
“Until this issue is resolved, it is very difficult for us to go advocate,” said Rep. Fry.
Council member Johnny Vaught, who represents the Forestbrook area, says the Grand Strand’s House delegation supports the county’s 20-year practice of controlling that hospitality tax money.
“The people who work in the tourism business have to live in the counties,” Vaught said. “They don’t all live in the cities, so we have to support that growth too.”
The state’s legislative session ended Thursday, so the bill wouldn’t be discussed at the capitol until January.
Rep. Fry hopes the bill motivates the county, cities and towns to reach a compromise.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to push anything legislatively,” Rep. Fry said. “I don’t think that we really want to, but I think if the issue is not resolved by January, we’re going to push it.”
In a statement, Myrtle Beach city spokesperson Mark Kruea did not specifically comment on the bill. He cited a policy of not dicussing pending litigation.
The statement did emphasize that the 20-year hospitality tax agreement with the cities has expired, Myrtle Beach property owners already pay taxes to Horry County, and the city supports funding towards I-73.