Lott, others endorse ‘yes’ vote on the penny

Nicole Curtis from the Columbia Chamber just saved me a heap o’ typing by sending out this from the presser I attended at the Clarion Townhouse this morning:

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott officially endorsed the Transportation Penny Plan on Tuesday at a Unity Rally to demonstrate the strong and broad base of support for the countywide plan to improve roadways in the Midlands and save the area’s vital bus system.

“Passage of the penny will help protect public safety in Richland County,” Lott said in his endorsement of The Penny. “The penny will provide infrastructure that can be life-saving. It will pave hundreds of dirt roads across the country. This is about far more than convenience. When sheriff’s deputies and ambulances can’t get down a dirt road because it’s turned to mud, people can die.”

Other local leaders, including Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin joined Lott at the Rally, which was held at the Clarion Townhouse in downtown Columbia exactly one week before the crucial Nov. 6 vote on The Penny.

“Those who oppose this initiative say it costs too much. But it’s a no vote that costs too much,” said Benjamin. “It would mean the loss of over 16,500 new jobs and billions in new investments. It would mean continuing to pay the terrible cost of having the second most dangerous roads in the state. It would cost our community millions in federal matching funds for transforming our bus system. It would lead to fees that would cost our families twice as much as The Penny. It would put the entire burden of transportation costs on Richland County residents, rather than letting folks from outside share the load.”

The event represented a diverse cross-section of individuals, including business, community and faith leaders, elected officials and various activist organizations.

Others on hand at the rally included members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation, Columbia City Council and Richland County Council, representatives from the United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Eau Claire Community Council, River Alliance, League of Women Voters, Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the Midlands Business Leadership Group, and additional neighborhood, faith and community leaders.

“Today our answer is a resounding YES – YES we want more jobs, YES we want local control, YES we want a first class public transit system and YES we want safer roads,” said Bunnie Ward of the United Way of the Midlands. “By investing today and saying YES, we will ensure a successful future for our community for generations to come.”

The Penny is on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot as two separate “Sales and Use Tax” questions. If approved by voters, it would add one cent to the Richland County sales tax for a period of 22 years to raise funds for vital roadway improvements and to provide long-term support for the local bus system.

Citizens for a Greater Midlands, the group pushing passage of this referendum, has done quite a job of assembling a broad coalition, as evidenced in the third paragraph from the end.

Of course, as I’ve noted before, the other side has a lot of passion going for it. Or at least, I thought it did. I was a bit surprised that, unlike at the last one of these events I attended in the same location, there wasn’t a single “no” counterdemonstrator outside. And this event was publicized in advance. I don’t know what happened to them today…

75 thoughts on “Lott, others endorse ‘yes’ vote on the penny

  1. Doug Ross

    There’s that phony jobs number again. It’s a made up number based on extrapolating all kinds of best case scenarios. There is no way possible to create 16,500 jobs from this tax. It’s an outright lie.

    There are also lies being presented as fact about how much the new roads will save in yearly maintenance costs on vehicles. Totally made up numbers.

    The Richland County Auditor is against it and suggested alternatives to fund buses. I would think he has some fiscal sense and wouldn’t be playing games with the numbers like these people are.

    Vote no on the billion dollar tax increase.

  2. Doug Ross

    And it’s not just that those who oppose this measure think it costs too much, there are plenty of other reasons starting with not believing that the politicians who got us into the mess can get us out of it. They have no track record for fiscal responsibility – in fact they have a long history of fiscal mismanagement. They’ve stolen money from the water and sewer funds for years to pay for other stuff and now that infrastructure is inadequate.

    Vote yes if you believe in fairy tales.

  3. Silence

    A few thoughts:
    Did any of these folks take the bus to the Clarion Hotel today?

    How much is the maintenance of all these newly paved roads going to cost? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy 4wd ambulances and patrol vehicles for the rural areas of the county?

    Why’d they put all the tall people in the front? Mayor Steve, Councilor’s Washington and Newman and Senator Jackson are all well over 6 feet tall and in the front rows. It’s a good thing they had a riser there.

    Councilman Manning REALLY REALLY needs a new haircut. I hope that some of the proposed penny tax is earmarked for a personal stylist for him and his mullet.

    If the United Way of the Midlands, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and Cathy Novinger are for something, I’m against it. No questions asked. If most of our elected officials are also for it, watch out and hold onto your wallet.

  4. bud

    Change the name of the campaign to “A 14% sales tax increase to fund infrastructure” from the abomonible “penny” thing and I’ll support it.

  5. Doug Ross

    I said it before but the “Our Penny” slogan is a poor marketing idea. Anyone who sees those signs has to wonder “What penny?”

    It doesn’t even say to Vote Yes on Question 2. Or is that because they expect to lose the vote and will have to re-use the signs when they try to ram this through again.

    Keep in mind that prior to the last attempt at raising the tax, there was all sorts of end-of-the-world wailing from the pro-tax crowd. Then it failed and the buses kept running just as we all knew they would.

    Same thing this time. If the tax fails, the buses will keep running.

  6. Mark Stewart


    Calling this a 14% tax increase is the disingenuous statement.

    Take your total local tax burden, then divide by that plus the projected tax dollars you would incur under this proposal. That won’t be a 14% increase. Even though I deal in numbers every day, I try not to use them to lead an argument; I generally find that those who do want to distort reality. The same goes for “the penny” – both are aimed at telling a tale. The truth is, local government is underfunded, has limited taxation options, and has a history of poor fiscal decision-making. So can we all please just deal with reality?

  7. Silence

    Doug – don’t be too sure that they’ll lose this time. And what if they do? They’ll just keep putting it on the ballot until it passes, raising all our other taxes and fees in the meantime. They act like it’s “their penny” but it’s really MY penny.

  8. Silence

    I’ll start a bounty fund for Jim’s mullet. I pledge $100 bucks for whomever can scalp him, and rid us of this pallid scourge…

  9. Silence

    @ Mark Stewart – I take exception with your statement that local government is underfunded. We have too many local governments to fund. City of Columbia, Arcadia Lakes, Forest Acres, Irmo, Chapin, Richland County, Eastover, Hopkins, Blythewood, just to name a few. Each one costs money.

  10. Doug Ross


    By how much would you estimate government is “underfunded”? Are you suggesting that every dollar spent now by local government is spent on critical functions and that more is needed?

    If we just took away the hospitality tax, I’d be fine with the transportation tax. The hospitality tax is a slush fund generator to reward well connected entities.

  11. Kathryn Fenner

    @Silence: How does the number of municipal governments refute the claim that they are underfunded?

  12. Silence

    I’m saying that we have wasteful duplication of services around here with local governments, just like we talked about with the school districts. If they are underfunded, they should try to consolidate, at least at the level of providing services. As they aren’t actively trying to save our tax money, I conclude that they aren’t underfunded.

  13. Brad

    I would say both are true: There are too many, and they are underfunded. Some more than others, of course. Folks who live in Columbia receive services I don’t get in Lexington County, and they pay for it.

    Silence just scratches the surface, though, on the excessive number of little governments. He doesn’t even mention the far more numerous Special Purpose Districts. There are about 500 of them. No one knows exactly how many, not even the SPD association. They were created in the days before county government was created, back when local legislative delegations ran everything, and they would create an SPD to address an ad hoc need, such as for sewer in a growing part of a county.

    None of them should exist anymore, except for the few that cross county boundaries, such as the one that governs Riverbanks Zoo, or Columbia Metropolitan Airport. There is a need for an ad hoc arrangement to govern something across multiple jurisdictions. But none of these others — the Richland recreation district, the Irmo fire district, to name a couple of examples — should exist anymore.

  14. Doug Ross

    There is a big difference between underfunded and misappropriated. Underfunded means all spending goes to primary functions of government and is insufficient to meet reasonable requirements.

    If there are tax dollars available to pay for carnivals, ballet, and other non-critical (in fact, non-government) functions, then the issue is misappropriation.

    When we have an issue providing proper funding for the city’s homeless population but have hundreds of thousands of tax dollars available to pay for restoring historic homes, there’s no underfunding going on.

  15. Brad

    This morning on the radio, Mayor Bloomberg was talking about the herculean task of getting NYC up and running again. The first two priorities: power and mass transit.

    No, our community doesn’t depend on public transit to function to the extent that New York does. But it still should be one of the top few essentials that a local government provides. I’d put it ahead of, say, parks. Not that I don’t think we should have parks — I think we should, and they should be properly maintained. But I think a reliable, comprehensive public transit system, that everyone can easily use and rely on, is more important.

  16. Brad

    Doing those shows in Finlay Park made me more conscious of what it takes to run a public park. Having to depend on those bathrooms and water fountains, the lighting, having the constant audience, even at rehearsals, of homeless people. Sort of a little microcosm of a city.

    We had a sizable footprint while we were there, with our big white tent (our dressing rooms) taking up most of the island in the lake, our set, our cars parked on the grass off toward the Gadsden side. But we were under strict orders to police the area each night for trash, as we didn’t want to get kicked out. We also were instructed to walk to the bathroom — all the way across the park (the closer ones, up above the amphitheater, were for the audience) — in shifts, rather than alone. I went alone a couple of times anyway. My only concern was running into someone who would say, “Whut the hay-ull are YOU supposed to be?” But with my chops, I got that all day anyway…

  17. Brad

    Steven, that of course would be my dream, but I’m reconciled to the fact that it’s not going to happen.

    I love subways. If we had a subway that would get me from home to downtown, I would never drive during the working week.

    When I visit a city that has a subway, I park my car on the outskirts and leave it.

    I love subways so much, I’ll ride them even when it’s less convenient (which is seldom the case — usually they are MUCH more convenient).

    For instance, last time I was in Washington for work (a bunch of years ago), when it came time to go home, I packed my bags and caught a cab and asked him to take me to the subway station. When he realized I was going to National Airport, he got really disgusted with me, saying I should just let him take me there. Since I was running a little late, and encumbered by baggage, I decided he was right and let him take me. But it really bugged me because I had some trips left on the subway card I’d bought when I got to town, and I really felt like I was missing out (and wasting money) taking the cab.

    It really concerns me that the NY subways are out of action. That system was my favorite in the world — until I went to London. Wow. The Tube is awesome. So clean and modern, with cushioned seats. Mind the Gap…

  18. Mark Stewart


    The hospitality tax is a slush fund. So instead of busting on an actual need, a public transit (bus based) system, why don’t we work on holding the elected council responsible for their spending decisions. You voted against one thing because you don’t like another. That seems like a disconnect to me; although I can see how you would think it logical to do what you did.


    I agree with you. However, I would point out a benefit to having competing municipalities; they give people choices in where to live and where to operate a business. That keeps the petty tyranny of local pols in check.

    The special purpose districts, on the other hand ought to be eliminated. We could do that by creating one metro area government that would be responsible for every extra-municupal function. And nothing more. That, to me, would be fire, ems, water and sewer, airports, the zoo, the rivers, sanitation, a medical examiner, Midlands Tech and mass transit. Everything else would be folded back into the county governments, including the school districts. I don’t know what I would do with the convention center – defund it I guess.

  19. Silence

    I’ve always worried about not being self-sufficient with transit. All of those people who were stuck in New Orleans during Katrina who didn’t have cars. The folks in NYC who rely on the subway, buses and taxicabs. The folks in Columbia who can’t get to work without CMRTA. The poor, the elderly, the infirm.
    I didn’t have a car when I was away at college, and I regretted the lack of mobility, and perceived freedom that went along with not having one. I can’t imagine not being able to get my family out of harm’s way if we were to need to flee Columbia today. I just simply can’t imagine my life without a car.

  20. Kathryn Fenner

    Trams in special lanes would make far more sense. They are cheaper than subways, but less impeded by traffic than buses.

  21. Doug Ross


    From this link:http://www.columbiasc.net/depts/grants_administration/downloads/Copy%20of%20Final%20Spreadsheet%2012-13.xls

    Historic Columbia Foundation 474,579.00

    That entire list is a testament to government misappropriation.

    Over $250,000 for ballet. Seriously, there is no justification for government to be involved in selecting which arts programs get funding. Let the people who want ballet donate or buy tickets.

    There are more valid places for those tax dollars to be spent.

  22. Doug Ross

    Here are just some some of the entities that Columbia city government feels are more important than providing bus service (total allocated in over $4 million). This is supposedly due to our UNDERFUNDED government.

    Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet
    Black Pages Intl (Black Expo)
    Capital City Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism
    Capital City Shag Club
    Carolina Carillon Holiday Parade
    Celebrate Freedom Foundation
    Columbia City Ballet
    Columbia City Jazz Dance Company
    Columbia Classical Ballet
    Columbia Film Society (Capital Project Phase 2)
    Columbia Film Society (Indie Grits Festival)
    Columbia Marionette Theatre Columbia Marionette Theatre (Spork in Hand Puppet Series)
    Eboni Dance Theatre
    Footsteps 2 Success, Inc. (Teen Pageant)
    Footsteps 2 Success, Inc. (Style Exhibition)
    Friends of Tapp’s Arts Center
    F.U.N.D.S., Inc. (Black History Parade/Festival)
    NonStop HipHop Live
    Order of Sons of Italy Lodge 2808 Palmetto Concert Band
    Palmetto Mastersingers
    Palmetto Opera
    Pawmetto Lifeline (Fur Ball)
    Sandlapper Singers (Concert Series)
    Sandlapper Singers (Connie James Concert)
    South Carolina Contemporary Dance
    South Carolina Hispanic Outreach
    South Carolina Philharmonic
    South Carolina Shakespeare Company
    Trenholm Artist Guild
    University of South Carolina (Environmental Epidemiology)
    University of South Carolina (Southern Exposure Music Series)
    University of South Carolina (Sport,Entertainment, Venues Tomorrow)
    University of South Carolina Gamecock Club
    Ms. SC Pageant

  23. Phillip

    It’s a false choice, Doug. Of course essential services must be properly funded and must take priority over other areas, but “let the people donate or buy tickets” could be just as easily applied to the idea of libraries or even schools. And while budgeting levels are totally appropriate to be debated (we need more for this, we need less for that) you don’t cease all funding to one area just because there are still needs in other areas.

    The mental, intellectual, and spiritual (in the sense of “the life of the inner spirit,” not religious) well-being of a city’s inhabitants are part of the purview of a city’s government as chosen by its inhabitants, and those needs and the wisdom of having those resources available do not end with adults having attained the age of majority. This is why we have libraries, this is why we have city and county parks and the activities they administer, this is why preserving and handing down the history of a city is critical (hence Historic Columbia), this is why the arts and culture are essential.

  24. Mark Stewart

    Thanks, Phillip! However, I do have to agree that from Doug’s list, the City of Columbia has, again, run a bit amuck with some of these funding choices.

    But your larger point still stands.

  25. Brad

    All I have to say is that Doug undermined his argument with a list that included “South Carolina Shakespeare Company.”

    OBVIOUSLY, money very well spent. 🙂

  26. Brad

    But seriously, folks…

    The city underwrites the Shakespeare Company, and the company offers plays in the park to the city’s people for free.

    Some of us like living in a place that offers things like that. Of course, I don’t live in the city, but I benefit from it, which is why I’m glad to help pay for the buses and road improvements through the sales tax.

    I live in Lexington County, which SHOULD be helping keep the buses running, but doesn’t want to participate. So at least I can help out through the sales tax.

  27. Brad

    Actually, I don’t know how much of the Shakespeare Company’s budget comes from the city, or what other sources may exist. I do know that we actors passed the hat among the audience at intermission each night. I helped do so one night.

  28. Kathryn Fenner

    Doug, who not only does not live in Columbia, he works out of state most of the time, cannot understand why the city funds arts organizations….

    Historic Columbia does a whole lot more than restore old houses. Indeed, it does very little of that. It fights to preserve the shreds of old Columbia that remain. When a city loses its sense of place, it becomes a shell surrounded by suburbs, a doughnut. This is a bad thing to those of us who live in the city and gladly pay taxes.

  29. Doug Ross

    Then let voters decide percentages to allocate to arts projects. As it stands now, money is allocated based on the whims of a very few people and what could be easily seen as the interests of the older, white liberal society. Hard to see where this spending reflects the views of all voters.

  30. Doug Ross

    This is like your neighbor buying a new big screen Tv and then knocking on your door asking for a loan to buy food because he underfunded his grocery budget.

    The money is there..the priorities are not. If there is money for dogs shelters and not for humans, that’s a real problem.

  31. Phillip

    Mark, I wouldn’t disagree with your point, though I think most of those organizations are worthy. (Note: a closer look at the spreadsheet Doug linked to shows that not all those groups actually got money…ironically Southern Exposure New Music Series which has gotten probably more national recognition than any of the others, asked for $10K and got bupkis). But I always wonder why the two ballet companies (and “two,” that’s a whole other question) get $260,000 total while SC Phil only gets $50,000.

    One of the main problems is the incestuous nature of the committees (especially in a city this small) that make the funding recommendations. And that’s a legitimate cause for concern (but the solution is to remedy the process, not to defund important civic entities). By contrast, arts grantors like SC Arts Commission or on a larger scale, the NEA, use peer panels outside the geographic area in question to avoid that issue. SC Hospitality Tax committee needs to vet the applications they receive with such outside “neutral” reviewers.

    In case anybody’s interested, the Hospitality Tax committee members listed on the city website updated as of last February are: Susan Douglas, David Martin, Bobby Williams. Rob Schoolmeester, Kelly Glynn, Cynthia Hardy(Chair), Bill Murphy, John Whitehead, and Moe Baddourah. (that last may have changed since he took office on Council).

  32. Doug Ross


    One of the supposed selling points of the tax increase is that 46% of it will be paid by residents outside the county. Apparently this is the way to go with taxes – let someone else pay for the things you want.

    Can I get a rebate on all the hospitality tax dollars I have paid into Columbia’s coffers over the year? It’s taxation without representation, isn’t it?

    My whole point is about priorities. Don’t cry poor about bus systems and bike path if you have money to spend on pet shelters and “Hoop-o-logy”. There is no underfunding going on. It’s all about a small group of people getting a much larger group of people to pay for the things the small group deems important.

    When you have a school district that can’t educate its young people but have the funds to pay for billboards or pay to maintain an empty factory building because, well, “it’s old”… then I’d question the priorities of those in charge. When you can spend more than a half million tax dollars on the Nickelodeon theater but can’t pay for poor people to ride the bus, your priorities are screwed up.

    In a 2011 story in the Free Times, it mentioned these four items as PRIORITIES for Columbia’s tax dollars:

    “Those projects are: moving the Nickelodeon Theatre to its new location; helping the Columbia City Ballet retire its debt and celebrate its 50th anniversary; finishing the Renaissance Foundation’s Cultural Arts Center; and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Historic Columbia Foundation by helping complete the Woodrow Wilson Family Home renovations. ”

    Seriously – how can anyone walk past a homeless person downtown and tell them “Hey, at least the ballet is no longer in debt!!! Come on down for a free performance of Swan Lake!”

    As for the Hospitality Tax Committee, I’d like to see the demographic makeup of that group to see if it matches the demographics of the voters who they represent. Based on the names, I’m pretty sure it’s not a close match.

  33. Doug Ross

    Now consider this from a recent article in The State:

    “Businesses in the Vista annually generate the second-largest sum of hospitality revenue of any part of the city — more than $1 million yearly, according to city records. Businesses around Columbiana mall, off Harbison Boulevard, lead the pack. They produce more every year than the Vista and Five Points combined, the records show.”

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/08/20/2406054/columbias-hospitality-tax-distributions.html#storylink=cpy

    Now, how many of those tax dollars are going back into the Harbison area? I bet most people didn’t know that all those tacky restaurants lining Harbison Blvd are funding the ballet.

  34. Doug Ross

    An interesting column by Kevin Fisher in the Free Times:


    In July, Atlanta rejected a sales tax increase for transportation by a 2-1 margin.

    From the column:

    Moreover, the proposed penny increase was on the ballot in all 10 counties that make up the metro Atlanta area — and was defeated in all 10 counties. Urban and suburban, black and white, rich and poor: Every sector of the Atlanta community rejected the proposed sales tax increase.

    The parallels between Columbia-Richland County and Atlanta-Fulton County (plus the surrounding nine counties) in these referenda are clear in terms of who tried to serve up this unappetizing dish to voters. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some excerpts from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire column in the aftermath of the Atlanta election results.

    “A plan for a transportation sales tax was endorsed by … the Democratic mayor of the state’s largest city. It was backed by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce … it was pushed by political consultants funded by … corporate and other donations.” Sound familiar?

    This passage from Fisher is exactly what I have been talking about concerning the lies being told by the pro-tax group:

    “Does anyone really believe “Dr. Harry-for-hire Miley” when he says the average household impact of the tax will be $109 — about half of what his own study said it would be two years ago? Or that we all spend an average of $283 on car repairs each year due to poor roads? No wonder public trust is an issue for the pro-tax crowd.”

  35. Silence

    Boyd Plaza, corner of Hampton & Main Street, 11/22-1/6
    Monday – Thursday: 11AM – 9PM
    Friday, Saturday: 11AM – 10PM
    Sunday: 1PM – 9PM

  36. Doug Ross

    “The city hopes the rink will make money for the city, after the city pays the $158,500 rental fee to Magic Ice USA, Baker said. Magic Ice set up the outdoor rink in Greenville that opened last year.”

    Sounds like a great business plan, “hope”. Wait, where have we heard about “hope” before?

  37. Kathryn Fenner

    All y’all who don’t live in the city,butt out about how we spend our money.,I think it is a great idea, and may further boost Main Street, and associated tax and business license revenues.

  38. Doug Ross


    Your city and it’s mayor wants those of us who live in Richland County to pay for a bus system by increasing taxes because they can’t seem to find the money to pay for the buses in the budget. As a Richland County taxpayer, I am tired of watching Columbia politicians be fiscally irresponsible and expect everyone else to pay for their mismanagement.

    If you want to raise the sales tax in Columbia downtown, go ahead. If it’s on all of us in Richland County, then I have every right to comment on how the money is spent.

    $150,000 would pay for 100,000 one way bus fares on CMRTA. That’s a round trip, 5 days a week for a year for 250 people.

    Or they can go do a triple axel.

  39. Kathryn Fenner

    The bus system, road widening and other transportation items benefit everyone, in varying amounts. Everyone in Richland County gets to vote on whether to charge the tax, and everyone who comes into the county to buy something will, if it passes, have to kick in something for all the benefits they receive for being in the vicinity.
    Of course, since you are rarely here, you receive few benefits, but you are unusual. You also would pay less of the tax, since you aren’t here,

  40. Doug Ross


    Maybe you forget that I have four other adult age family members who are here..And I spend a minimum of 3 days a week in Richland County. If you would like to compare tax dollars contributed to the county, lets do that, ok? Can you top $4000 in property taxes alone? I pay for a house and 4 cars.

    The bus system doesn’t benefit me and asking me to pay more taxes because Columbia can’t seem to find the money due to spending it on ice rinks and beauty pageants is a weak argument.

  41. Kathryn Fenner

    And you benefit from a house and four cars, on a huge lot. Our humble house and modest cars only run us about 2K, which is half what it should be, at least.

    Widening,Hard Scrabble Road doesn’t benefit me, but if I have to go to the hospital, the bus service that brought a lot of the workers in directly benefits me. At any rate, a bus service is crucial for a healthy community and environment, both of which benefit me. Columbia should not be solely responsible for regional transit, either.

  42. Silence

    Kathryn – It’s not about “who pays” or “who benefits”. The issue is much simpler than that. Have our local governments been good stewards of taxpayer/ratepayer dollars? The answer is no. Case closed. For every good eassential service that they provide, I can point out something that was non-essential or pure waste.
    If they haven’t been good stewards thus far, why should we give them more resources to squander? I’m all for FULLY funding the transit system, but this proposal is fully ridiculous.

  43. Steven Davis II

    I’d love to see the look on Kathryn’s husband’s face when she tells him that they should be paying double the taxes they do now. I’m sure Richland County wouldn’t object if she wrote the checks for double the amount.

    How many of the doctors and nurses at the hospital commute by bus? Having spoken to people who work as EMT’s, those who don’t have cars don’t have any problem calling 911 to be transported to doctor’s visits. One said they had a guy who called 911 for his daily dialysis appointments… and they had to take him. A cab would have cost him $5, but the ambulance ride was free because he was on Medicaid.

  44. Doug Ross

    They want to widen Hardscrabble Road because they did such a poor job of planning for growth as it was happening. They have no track record for doing things correctly.

  45. Kathryn Fenner

    Just asked my husband if he thinks we should pay double the taxes we do, and he said, “At least that much.” We paid more than twice what we do here when we lived in a house worth half as much, when we lived in Portland ME. I used to take the bus there. It had half the population of Columbia.

  46. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – I guess you and your husband should put your money where your mouth is then, I’d love to see you send Brad a copy of the check you’re both going to write to Richland County. Will you do it? I say no, typical Democrat all talk. If you’re inclined to do so, maybe you can pay mine for me.

    What did you pay for property taxes in Portland, ME on things like vehicles? As much as you do in South Carolina? Where I’m from the property taxes on homes is three times what it is here, but car tags run about $20 per year. Most fees are minimal compared to SC too. In the end it comes out about the same.

  47. Doug Ross


    I’m okay with you wanting to pay more taxes. I’m not okay with you wanting everyone else to pay more.

    This is one of my long time pet peeves related to property taxes. They are unevenly applied for the same benefit. Government services should be based on fees, not arbitrary valuation. A $200K homeowner gets the same benefit as a $100K homeowner. A $30K car can use the same roads as a $2K car.

    I’d like to see flat fees for services per dwelling – they do it for the garbage collection and a flat per car registration fee. Then raise the gas tax to cover road maintenance. It’s bizarre to look a a car property tax bill and see that most of it goes to school bonds.

  48. Steven Davis II

    What the hell does that mean? “you look at the world as a consumer”.

    If Brad and I enter a toll road, should Brad pay a higher toll if he’s driving a more expensive car than I am?

    If I have three kids going to the local public school and my neighbor has three kids going to the same public school, should one of us pay more if we live in a more expensive house?

  49. Kathryn Fenner

    We do not agree, of course. There is no point in just me paying more taxes. Everyone needs to kick in proportionately to the benefits they have garnered from society. Of course, you think you built that. I think we all pitched in and some people have been luckier than others.

  50. Brad

    Note that I said schools are “historically” paid for by a property tax (and still should be).

    Several years ago, lawmakers, in their infinite foolishness, removed the burden of paying for school operations from owner-occupied homes. So the house you live in would NOT affect how much you pay to run schools. That home IS still taxed for capital expenditures, or debt service. And other properties — commercial, second homes — are still taxed for school operations.

  51. Doug Ross


    40% of my property taxes go to school bonds.

    It’s a sad commentary on citizenship when it is defined by the number of tax dollars you put into the system.

    There is no justification for a home to pay a different amount than its two neighbors. None. It’s a primary example of the unnecessary complexity that government imposes…

    As for Kathryn’s comment of “you didn’t build that”… whatever. Until we reach the point where we are all compensated the same amount regardless of performance, I’ll accept that I earned what I have.

  52. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – So because nobody else is doing it, there is no reason for you to do it either. Like I said, you say you’ll do it but when it comes down to actually writing the check you come up with excuses. I guess Richland County wouldn’t benefit by your doubling up on property taxes.

    Brad I don’t even use the school system that I pay taxes to. I do use the roads and fire/police departments. Do those people with 14 kids and no car pay for road taxes? I have no problem paying my share for road improvements as long as that’s what they’re used for… I don’t want it to be spent for overhead at DSS.

  53. Mark Stewart

    So from reading everyone’s comments what we need are fair taxes.

    That makes sense – so everyone is right. Trouble is, taxes are a one size fits all proposition. That’s why intelligent, civic-minded people over generations have come up with a three legged tax structure to equitably spread the burden.

    But here I read a lot of NIMBYism; there is too much me-first talk I think. The greater good comes first. That’s the basis of both capitalism and the rule of law. If people don’t like the choices City and County Council make, get involved politically on the local level. One doesn’t even need to be a resident to be a voice at is heard.

  54. Brad

    Doug says, “It’s a sad commentary on citizenship when it is defined by the number of tax dollars you put into the system.”

    No, that doesn’t DEFINE citizenship. But now that we no longer have a draft, it’s the only significant positive OBLIGATION that our citizenship ever asks of most of us.

    I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand, on a deep level, why so many people resent this one thing that our civilization asks of them. Oh, I can recite the words explaining it, but I’ll never really get on a gut level why people are motivated by such reasoning.

  55. susanincola

    Maybe we could take arguments like these that happen over and over again on this blog and put a “best version” of them into an archive and then just refer to them with a link whenever they come up. Save everyone a bunch of time.

  56. Doug Ross


    Because you think that if you pay X into the system and I pay X*2 into the system, we are equally participating. Using your draft example, it’s like saying “I could have gone to war but didn’t (for whatever reason) and that makes me an equal participant.

    I’ve put a whole lot more into the government over my lifetime than I have received. And, I know, I am supposed to feel lucky and privileged to have that “opportunity”. The problem is those who are recipients of my contributions don’t ever seem to appreciate the fact that others are doing the heavy lifting that gives them healthcare, food stamps, a Social Security check, etc. It’s all coming from the great benevolent “government”. And when someone like Mitt Romney kicks in millions of dollars a year, he’s ridiculed for not being forced to give more.

    Dollars do not equal community. That’s the problem. We’ve “evolved” society where charity is mandated.

  57. Doug Ross

    You never hear low income people say “If it weren’t for the rich people, my kids wouldn’t be able to go to a good school or get a free lunch” do you?

  58. Brad

    Perhaps part of the difference between Doug and me lies in the fact that I lived in the Third World when I was very young, and yes, I came to understand that we ARE extremely fortunate and blessed to live in this country, and taxes are a laughably low price to pay for the privilege.

    In countries such as the one I lived in, people worked themselves to death for less money in a week than an American spends on a pack of cigarettes.

    And that actually was a country where it was common for people in government to do what libertarians in this country IMAGINE people in government here do — look out purely for themselves, and raise taxes for their personal empowerment and enrichment.

    Things are SO much better in this country on so many levels, and anyone who is not actually impoverished by taxes is indeed fortunate just to be here, in this system and culture.

    Still. Even with the decline in civility, even with our economic malaise. Way better than living the way most people on the planet live. So yeah, you are lucky and privileged that you didn’t come up in one of those other places.

  59. Steven Davis II

    Brad – That speech might be better if you have America the Beautiful softly played in the background.

    Are us uncivilized US citizens unlucky and under-privileged to not have been born in other wealthier parts of the world where citizens pay little to no taxes? I guess if we were really lucky we would have been born in Qatar where the average person’s income is over $88,000.

  60. Doug Ross

    Right. And things are so much better here because capitalists driven by the motivation of making profits have done so and have in turn returned the fruits of their labor to others.

    I’ve never felt contempt for anyone who got rich legally (including those who inherited their wealth). Most of us owe our careers to the efforts of people who think and act on a large scale. We didn’t build that, the 1% did.

  61. Scout

    The things which most directly facilitated my career are probably my parents, the SC teacher loan program, and the Individuals With Disablities Education Act (IDEA) – none of which have anything to do with the 1%, unless you possibly consider that I think Ted Kennedy was instrumental in getting IDEA passed.

    Seriously Doug, can you give a few concrete examples of the 1% thinking and acting on a large scale to build things that contribute to most people’s careers. The first time I read your first paragraph, I thought you were being sarcastic. It works better that way.

    I suspect that most examples you can come up with can be traced back at some level to at least some government intervention. Companies that bring technological advances to the market for example, usually have benefited from information gleaned through government funded research or work done at public universities at some point.

    You say, “I’ve put a whole lot more into the government over my lifetime than I have received. ”

    This statement makes me think you take an awful lot of what you receive for granted, but even if it is true at face value, I personally don’t have a problem with that scenario for myself as long as I can get what I need. Which I easily can.

    There is a point of view that says fair does not mean everyone gets the same thing, it means everyone gets what they need. I’m thinking that you don’t subscribe to this view. It doesn’t bother me that some people get more from the government than others because their circumstances are different. I am thankful for my circumstances, and I value living in a community that has mechanisms built in to help those in need.

  62. Doug Ross


    Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Michael Bloomberg, Sam Walton… I could keep going if you’d like.

    Obviously we haven’t reached the point of fairness in your opinion since we are consistently being asked to contribute more and more into the government. Otherwise, why would taxes have gone up steadily over the years? Social Security is a perfect example. The percentage paid has gone up and up and up since its inception. How could that be possible? Wouldn’t you expect it to be static or go up and down depending on the economy? And despite ever increasing tax revenues, it never seems to be enough. We are told the schools don’t have enough, the roads are in poor shape, people don’t have enough free healthcare.
    The simple question I have is: How much more of my income is required for everyone else to get what they want? Right now, it’s about 40%… will 50% be enough? 60%?

    When the sum total of the taxes paid by my wife and I exceed her entire yearly income by tens of thousands of dollars, we’ve gone beyond “fair”.

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