Myrtle Beach area legislators see clout through unity

sjones@thesunnews.comDecember 11, 2012 

— Getting legislation through the S.C. General Assembly is a numbers game, and now that the Horry County delegation has one more member, legislators said Tuesday that they will have some more influence over what comes out of Columbia.

But the important number for Horry and Georgetown counties is one, a number achieved through the unity of the delegation, said Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet.

“We have turned into one of the most effective delegations in the last six to seven years,” Cleary said at a legislative lunch hosted by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, “because we are united.”

This year, the Chamber wants the 11-member delegation to direct its effort toward a number of issues, including help with funding for Interstate 73 and the Southern Evacuation Lifeline, a new highway to link the South Strand/Murrells Inlet area with U.S. 501 at its intersection with S.C. 22. Other of the Chamber’s legislative priorities include establishing an equitable way for taxing online transient rentals, meeting or exceeding needs-based funding for Coastal Carolina University and Horry Georgetown Technical College, expediting agency/board appointments for representatives from the new 7th Congressional District and eliminating the state’s corporate tax.

The latter is an issue that new Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, supports. Goldfinch said he also wants the legislature to reduce the state’s manufacturing property tax, which at 10.5 percent he said is three times the national average.

But the work on all the other issues is precluded by the need for jobs in the area, said Rep. Mike Ryhal, R-Carolina Forest, whose seat is new to next year’s General Assembly.

“If we don’t do something about jobs,” he said, “we’re not going to be able to do anything about all these other issues.”

True, said Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, but to attract the best jobs the area needs an interstate highway link. Clemmons said 90 percent of businesses that build in South Carolina want to be within 10 miles of an interstate highway. Without that, he continued, the right jobs won’t come.

“As you can tell,” said Mark Lazarus, Grand Strand businessman who emceed the event, “jobs equal infrastructure and infrastructure equals jobs.”

Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Kingstree, said he believes the area is on target in selling the need for I-73 funding to Columbia and Washington, D.C. Rep. Nelson Hardwick. R-Surfside Beach, said the effort would be enhanced even more by selling I-73 and the lifeline as regional issues.

The legislators further said they want to concentrate on seeing that Horry County gets its fair share of the taxes the county funnels into the state treasury and they’re worried about the financial impact of the Affordable Health Care Act on individuals and businesses.

About 130 people attended the event held at the Myrtle Beach Marriott Hotel. The attendees gave a standing ovation to retiring state Sen. Dick Elliott, D-North Myrtle Beach, for his 30 years in the General Assembly.

The lunch was sponsored by the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors and the Grand Strand Business Alliance.

The new legislative session begins in January.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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