Monday, February 9, 2015

House bill threatens city services

It was a busy week for local officials last week with both the Municipal Elected Officials Institute and Hometown Legislative Action Day taking place in Columbia on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Rep. Rick Quinn (R-Lexington) introduced H3490, a bill to change how business license taxes are calculated and to cap the tax for any business at $100. This caused a firestorm of concern among the municipal leaders gathered in Columbia for Hometown Legislative Action Day. 

But the timing was great as officials were able to meet with dozens of legislators at the State House to explain the profound impact this proposed legislation would have on city services.

Officials had the chance to talk with their legislators about why businesses locate in a city and why city services such as police, fire, zoning, street lights, sidewalks and others can’t be paid for on an individual usage basis. Through a business license tax, businesses together help pay for the city services that all businesses benefit from receiving.

Business license revenue accounts for 25 to 50 percent of almost all cities’ budgets. In Mount Pleasant, for example, 34 percent of its budget would be affected by this change.

Lexington is similar with 41 percent of the town’s budget derived from business licensing. This equates to the budgets of the following services combined…parks, streets, transportation, sanitation, planning, building, zoning, information technology, finance, town council, municipal court and municipal clerk. 

“I don’t know of a government or private business that can make up for a 25 to 50 percent cut in its budget without cutting the products and services they provide,” Association Executive Director Miriam Hair told local officials. “Do we want the infrastructure of our cities in 10 years to look like our roads do today? I don’t think so, but cut 25 to 50 percent of a city’s budget, and that is what will happen.”

Get more background on this legislation and its effect on city services from the Association's website.

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