S.C. governor meets with county, city leaders ahead of 3rd hospitality tax mediation

Updated: Oct. 30, 2019 at 11:16 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Millions of tax dollars are still tied-up in a dispute between county and city leaders throughout Horry County. Now, South Carolina’s leader is getting involved in the ongoing argument.

The back-and-forth feud of hospitality and accommodations taxes started in March when the city of Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit, accusing the county of illegally collecting a 1.5% hospitality tax without consent.

The county said it planned on using the money collected to help build Interstate 73, a highway that would connect I-95 in Dillon the whole way to the coast in Myrtle Beach.

Since the lawsuit was filed, there has been numerous court filings, injunctions and mass confusion over hospitality fee collection.

In August, Horry County Council voted to postpone canceling its I-73 contract with the state Department of Transportation, asking for an extension of 90 days to iron details regarding hospitality and accommodations taxes.

With the future of the interstate in jeopardy, Gov. Henry McMaster’s office was asked to have a talk with the city and county leaders.

“As with any large project such as this one, you’re going to have disputes and you’re going to have disagreements and the governor continues to work with all stakeholders involved to see that I-73 is complete,” said Brian Symmes, spokesperson for the governor’s office.

Symmes said SCDOT Commissioner Tony Cox requested the meeting to happen between McMaster, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner and attorneys for each side earlier this month.

Following the meeting, Symmes said the governor feels confident a solution will be found soon.

“He’s confident that there will be a resolution at some point that those parties can come together to reach this common goal,” said Symmes.

Mayor Bethune wasn’t available for an interview but said, in part, quote:

“I have met with the Governor recently to give him a very brief update on the lawsuit over the Hospitality Fee. I-73 was mentioned, but was certainly not the main discussion topic.”

Our media partner My Horry News spoke with Gardner and he said:

“We didn’t do any mediation with the governor. We just met and talked. I think basically he was just asking where we were at.”

Last month, WMBF News spoke with Congressman Tom Rice regarding the ongoing tax feud and he said it’s time that a resolution is found.

“Too often we get left behind in infrastructure and when I’ve got both senators pitching for us and the governor pitching for us. And we’re the only one they’ve asked for a grant for, 350-million dollars, and we fight among ourselves at such a critical time, it’s horribly irresponsible,” said Rice.

The meeting between state and local officials came weeks before the third mediation meeting between all the leaders and their attorneys.

That meeting’s planned for 10 a.m. Thursday.

The two parties will try again to resolve the legal feud over hospitality fees.

We'll update you here on WMBF News with any new information that comes out of that meeting.

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