MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach City Council passed first reading to renew the city's tourism development fee during its Tuesday meeting.
The vote followed a heated discussion between council members and the public. It must pass one more reading before formal adoption.
The TDF is a 1 percent retail sales tax on everything bought in the city, from restaurant meals to hotel rooms to clothes.
Both tourists and residents pay this fee year-round.
It started in 2009, and according to former mayor John Rhodes, the TDF has increased business and tourism by 50 percent in the last eight years.
Approximately 80 percent of the funding is used for out-of-market advertising. The other 20 percent could go toward property tax credits and tourism-related projects.
Mayor Brenda Bethune supports the TDF and says it's needed in order for the area to grow.
"The funds could be used for infrastructure, it helps with beach renourishment projects, it helped with our boardwalk project," she said. "The airport is the biggest thing to me because it has greatly helped with the expansion of the airports, bringing in new airlines."
"You want to get more air service, you want to bring Southwest Airlines in, let's do it. You got to have the TDF. Look at what's happened the last two years, air service form Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas. This is a westward expansion like we have never seen. Where's the solution to do that without the TDF?" said Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean.
Dean added the TDF has cut property tax by 82 percent and says it's the largest municipal tax cut in state history.
"It's growing jobs and keeping taxes low. Stand up and let the council know how you feel," Dean said while speaking at Tuesday's meeting.