Grand Strand mayors speak out against proposed hospitality fee bill

Horry League of Cities to speak against House Bill

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The blame game continues in a battle over valuable tax dollars in Horry County.

Mayors of cities and towns in Horry County spoke out Monday about a bill that would require them to pay the county a hospitality fee.

House Bill 4597 was filed earlier this month by Horry County representatives including state representatives Russell Fry, Alan Clemmons, and Heather Crawford.

“House Bill 4597 seeks to block our cities and towns from rightfully collecting fees within our own jurisdictions,” North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said.

“It would be a step backwards and we need to stand up for our municipalities and make sure that doesn’t happen,” Conway Mayor Barbara Bellamy said.

In 1996, municipalities agreed to give the county 1.5% of their accommodations tax money to help fund road projects. That agreement expired in 2017 and several cities and towns voted to keep the money in their jurisdictions. Horry County was reportedly going to use a sum of the hospitality fee to pay for Interstate 73, but that may not be an option if they stop collecting hospitality fees.

“North Myrtle Beach City Council together with everyone here today remain open to negotiating a path forward to achieving I-73 for the benefit of everyone,” said Hatley.

“It is very disheartening that our actions to put our citizens and community first have been taken out of context,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune. “We have a fiduciary obligation to our residents, and we have the lawful right to manage our funds, our citizens’ money, for the good of our own communities.”

Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner watched the press conference from afar Monday.

“I’m willing to do anything to get this resolved I just want to say that upfront,” he said after listening to local leaders.

Hatley said the chairman and county haven’t been open to negotiations.

“Why else would they run to our representatives and have them propose such a bill,” Hatley questioned.

Gardner dismissed those claims.

“We did not. I did not. I did not know the legislatures were doing this until it’s done,” he said. “I think it was the right thing to do and I support the local delegation for doing this. We did not go to them and ask them to do this but we’re glad they did.”

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