July 23, 2014

Sheheen’s road funding proposal rejects gas tax


State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen said Tuesday that he does not think South Carolina should increase its gas tax to pay for badly-needed road repairs. Instead he is pushing a plan that would borrow up to $1 billion and redirect millions more from elsewhere in the state budget.

Sheheen released his plan to improve South Carolina roads on Tuesday, basing it partly off recommendations he previously made in his book “The Right Way.” The proposal calls for the state to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to pay for immediate work. It also calls on the legislature to dedicate five percent of the general fund budget on top of the approximately $500 million it collects in gas tax revenue each year. Sheheen said he also wants state officials to consider other means to expand funding, including possible tolls to repair and widen Interstate 95, or a new tax on out-of-state trucks that travel South Carolina highways.

But he rejected any increase to South Carolina’s lowest-in-the-nation 17-cent fuel tax. “The gas tax is a declining source of revenue,” he told reporters, adding that vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient. “It’s why we’re in the mess we’re in now, because we solely rely on it. If all we do is rely on the gas tax, we’ll be right back having this discussion five years from now (or) ten years from now.”

Sheheen is challenging Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who has previously said she will propose a plan to increase road funding when state legislators return in January.

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Spartanburg voters to decide on Sunday alcohol sales in November

Spartanburg County voters will decide in November if alcohol sales should be allowed on Sunday after the county council passed a referendum on Monday.

Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt (Image: Spartanburg County)

Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt
(Image: Spartanburg County)

The council approved the referendum with a 5-2 vote at its meeting. One of the supporters of the referendum was Councilman David Britt, who said it was important to put this issue up for public vote.

“The people of Spartanburg should have the decision-making power whether they want to have Sunday alcohol sales or not,” Britt told South Carolina Radio Network. “My choice was put it in the hands of the voters and let them decide and tell us what they want.”

According to Britt all registered county voters will be able to voice their opinion yes or no on the matter. Initially, the change would only impact unincorporated areas. Two municipalities in the county (including the city of Spartanburg) already allow Sunday sales, but all 14 of the county’s municipalities would have to decide to either opt-in or opt-out if voters approve the change.

Some opponents say towns should be able to legalize or bar the sales on their own.

“I don’t think we’ve got the right to tell the municipalities what they can or can’t do,” Councilman O’Neal Mintz said, according to the Spartanburg Herald Journal. “I haven’t had anybody in Chesnee tell me they want Sunday alcohol sales.”

Britt noted his main agenda was getting the referendum on the ballot for unincorporated areas.

“We have 14 municipalities in Spartanburg County, and 2 already have Sunday alcohol sales,” Britt said. “Based on what I have been told, that will really be up to the municipalities whether they opt in or out. That’s not my focus, my focus is the unincorporated areas of the county.”

The referendum will only allow Sunday sales in restaurants, not stores.

Patrick Ingraham filed this report

Longtime Fairfield County sheriff resigns

Fairfield County Sheriff Herman Young (Image:  Fairfield County)

Fairfield County Sheriff Herman Young (Image: Fairfield County)

Fairfield County’s sheriff has announced that he will step down from his position after more than two decades of serving the county.

According to The State Newspaper, Sheriff Herman Young said he will tenure his resignation effective Tuesday due to health concerns.

“This has not been an easy decision to make.  On one hand, I have a strong passion to continue serving this great community that has supported me for so many years.  On the other hand, I must think of my health and what really matters in life- my family,” Young said in a statement.

Young, elected in 1992, is the first African-American to serve as Fairfield County’s sheriff.

County officials made a statement listing some of Young’s achievements and programs started during his time as sheriff.

“Young implemented the Summer Kids Camp; the Home Alone Program which has been nationally recognized; selected as Sheriff of the Year by his colleagues; nationally recognized for solving a twenty year old murder; and also was responsible for the largest drug arrest in the history of Fairfield County. Sheriff Young has also served as President of the S.C. Sheriff’s Association,” the statement said.

Governor Nikki Haley also released a statement thanking Young for his service to the county and the state.

“We are proud to celebrate his wonderful years of service,” said Haley in the release. “He is moving on from this post the same way he led the community of Fairfield County, with strength and grace. Michael and I, along with everyone in South Carolina, owe him a debt of gratitude.”

The Sheriff’s Office said Chief Deputy Keith Lewis will act as interim sheriff until voters chose a permanent replacement in an October special election.

Patrick Ingraham contributed to this report

Effort fails to get Sunday alcohol sales on ballot in Greenville County

Voters in Greenville County will not be asked this November if they want to allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Earlier this month, Palmetto Restaurant and Ale House Owner David McCraw had gathered nearly 10,000 signatures in 12 days to get the petition approved for November’s ballot.  This was more than the required 7500 signatures needed by July 7.

However, McCraw said the Greenville County Election Commission told him Friday that more than 2,500 of the names on the petition had been disqualified for different reasons.

“They were disqualified for multiple reasons from, number one, not being able read their signature or their actual printed name,” McCraw said.

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SC now has inventory of state-owned buildings and land for first time

Bull Street property

Image: SC Dept. of Mental Health

For the first time, the state of South Carolina now has a complete inventory of all the buildings and land that it owns.

Gov. Nikki Haley issued an executive order last October that required all state agencies to compile the list. The new inventory released this week shows the state owns over 7,800 buildings and more than 2,500 pieces of land.

Earlier this week, Gov. Haley said the list will help her administration decide what to do with real estate South Carolina owns. “We need to look and see how much of that we need to get rid of, how much of that we can consolidate,” Haley said after a Monday press avilability. “What do we have that the taxpayers are paying for that’s not even being used?”

WSPA-TV reported the list has been a long time coming — previous Gov. Mark Sanford had tried to create the inventory as far back as 2003. The state Division of General Services will keep the overall lists on its website.

State officials say the list will now help them determine which properties are in use, partially-occupied, or are considered surplus. “We didn’t know what we owned,” State Treasurer Curtis Loftis told South Carolina Radio Network. “And every good landlord’s got to know what you own.”

The list does not include how much the buildings or land are worth.