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Mande Wilkes | To Horry County Council, a warning: Raise taxes & risk revolt

Ahead of Horry County Council’s final tax-hike vote on Tuesday, here’s a message to councilmen: we are watching you.

One voter has already announced her disappointment in newly elected council member Johnny Vaught. On these very pages she reminded Vaught of his campaign promise not to raise taxes, and wondered aloud if he is actually committed to small government at all. In defense of his vote in favor of the tax hike, Vaught offered only a thin explanation — if it’s for a good cause, it’s OK to raise your taxes.

Wrong!

For several years I’ve acted as the self-appointed ombudsman for the local Republican Party. Every organization needs an ombudsman to catalog its hypocrisies, and the local “conservatives” are hypocritical as all get-out.

To wit, the two Democrats on the council oppose the tax increase. Meanwhile, a majority of the Republican councilmen vigorously support it, declaring that hiking their own salaries is more important than your bottom line.

Shockingly, it seems we’d have a more budget-conscious council if more of the members were Democrats and fewer were Republicans.

It’s a shame, and a sham. How did we get to this point? South Carolina prides itself on being one of the most reliably conservative states in the union. Hell, the Grand Strand itself is known as the “Redneck Riviera.” How can it be, in conservative Horry County, that a bunch of big-spenders are in charge of the budget?

On social media I’ve joked that what the county needs is a stereotypically tight-fisted Jew like myself to get things in order. So here’s my advice to the guys in ties deciding how to spend your money: Want to raise pay for county workers? Great. Just make a corresponding cut to spending in some other area.

That’s how you balance a budget, councilmen. It’s simple and straightforward, though not necessarily easy. It’s surely much easier to never cut any spending, and to keep raising workers’ salaries. It’s easier, certainly, to keep hiking taxes than it is to say “enough, already.”

That’s the thing of it, really … being in leadership means knowing when to say “no.” Making promises with other people’s money is something any idiot can do. It’s another thing entirely to practice restraint with the public’s money — to say “no” and to say “enough” and to say “stop.”

You know what? I probably wouldn’t complain at all if those who are fiscally liberal would simply come clean about their liberalism. For their part, Democrats at least are honest about wanting more taxes. Republicans are rather like wolves in sheep’s clothing — or donkeys in elephant’s clothing, more like. They get elected on the guarantee of fiscal restraint, but once in office they become quite generous while spending other people’s money.

So, to the councilmen who support the tax hike, again I say it: we are watching you. To those who vote on Tuesday to raise taxes, I will publicly demand that you change your party affiliation to match your voting record.

I — we — will not quietly allow you to run as a Republican and lead as a liberal. Get right, or get out.

Contact Wilkes, a local cultural commentator, at m@mandewilkes.com.

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