You mean we should have read it first?
As Greenville County residents consider the merits or detriments of a 1% sales tax increase to pay for much needed road and bridge repairs, we learn that Greenville County Council dropped the ball on the ordinance we’re voting on.
These fine folks, minus the late Dan Rawls, voted for and against adding a 1% sales tax increase referendum to the November ballot, apparently without reading the actual ordinance.
According to Council members who opposed the increase and members in favor of the increase, they all ASSUMED that the 1% sales increase would only apply to the areas where SC collects the state’s 6% sales tax now, which would mean groceries would not be taxed.
Oops, not so. the ordinance as it now stands includes groceries in the application of the 1% sales tax, so if this referendum passes as written, come the middle of next year, we, in Greenville County will be paying 1% more for our food.
How did this happen? Well, as far as I can tell, the Council ASSUMED that the sales tax would apply to what the State’s 6% applies, so they didn’t bother to specify to the County Attorney to make certain that groceries were specifically exempted in the ordinance he put together for them. It has been suggested that the County found an ordinance for a 1% sales increase from another county and borrowed the language and adapted it for Greenville. That ordinance did not exempt food.
In addition to not being clear on what items would be taxed, they apparently never actually read the ordinance before it was placed on the ballot. It took anti-tax advocates combing through the ordinance in the 11th hour searching for anything to use to stop it’s passage to discover “Grocery-gate.”
County Council, now with egg on their face, (after spending months promoting the “fact” that your grocery bill would not be affected), is scrambling to “fix” Grocery-gate. The Council is working with our Legislative delegation to pre-file legislation that would exempt groceries from this 1% sale increase, should the voters pass it in November. To be clear, if legislation is pre-filed, it will not be until January, at the earliest, when the Legislature could take up the bill and vote to exempt groceries. We will already have voted to pass the ordinance before we know if the tax will affect our cupboards and fridges. To be fair, the sales tax will not go into effect until mid-2015, so the “fix” could be in place BEFORE the taxing starts.
So now what?
First, to Greenville County Council, you are making it really hard to trust you when you don’t do the simplest things to ensure that your actions are in the best interests of the voters. DO A BETTER JOB! or find a new one.
Second, to my fellow voters: “Grocery-gate” is just one more aspect of this referendum that you must consider when making your decision. Consider all aspects carefully and then make the decision that you think is best for our entire county.
Please comments below. Let us know if the possibility of paying more at the grocery store has changed your vote.