MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A proposed bill will let residents decide if they want to pay more at the pump in order to help improve area beaches. Senator Greg Hembree proposes a bill that would let counties vote if they want a 1 cent per gallon tax on gas to go towards beach renourishment projects.
"The voters would have to vote to tax themselves. It’s not a tax being imposed upon voters by Columbia or county government. It's just a statue that would permit county government to put it on the ballot and let voters decide if they want to increase their gas tax up to one penny and that money would be used exclusively for beach renourishment and maintenance,” said Hembree.
Hembree explains the state has been able to get money for beach renourishment through grants and federal funding but it’s hit or miss. While he says the state would still go after grants, this tax would make beach renourishment money more secure.
“This would give us something predictable, so we can predict with a high degree of certainty what’s going in,” he said. “The best part of it is most of it’s paid for by the tourists and they’re not going to care. They’re not going to look at it and say ‘oh my gosh one penny more for gas.’ Our gas here Is cheaper than most in the country with our taxes. Even if we add that penny, gas is cheaper here than most states.”
Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught says he thinks neighbors would vote against this added fee at the pump, since a one penny gas tax was already added last year. He also thinks the way beach renourishment is funded is running smoothly.
"With hospitality fees and the way we have it set up so we can contribute some each year and have it on a renourishment schedule, I think it’s a perfectly good way to do it,” said Vaught.
Vaught says another concern about the bill is that those who live west of the waterway don’t always utilize the beaches. "
You may not go to the beach a lot, but you do enjoy the benefits of a strong tourism economy even if it’s an indirect benefit,” said Hembree.
Hembree also explained if a county did vote to in favor of the gas tax, that money would stay and help beach renourishment only in the county where it was adopted.