Supporters of a one-penny increase in the sales tax in Richland County kicked off a campaign to win voter approval of a plan they said would raise $1 billion over 22 years, address critical transportation needs and create an estimated 17,000 new jobs.
Richland County Council member Paul Livingston answers questions about the 1-cent sales tax proposal, flanked by Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lee Bussell and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. (Photo/James T. Hammond)
By James T. Hammond
Published Sept. 19, 2012
Supporters of a one-penny increase in the sales tax in Richland County kicked off a campaign this week to win voter approval of a plan they said would raise $1 billion over 22 years, address critical transportation needs and create an estimated 17,000 new jobs.
The issue will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot for all Richland County voters.
The transportation penny, according to the county’s proposal, would increase sales tax in Richland County to 8 cents on the dollar on proceeds of sales, with the funds going to improve roads, support the bus system and increase bike and pedestrian greenways. The transportation penny would increase the sales tax to 2 cents on the dollar on groceries, except for purchases made with food stamps, which are exempt from the transportation penny.
Penny tax proposal
The transportation plan that would be funded by the penny sales tax has a major economic development component, supporters say. One of the projects that it would fund is the Shop Road extension, a new section of road in southern Richland County that could open up large new industrial sites that are attractive to manufacturers and allow water and sewer utilities to be extended into the area.
Lee Bussell, chairman of the board of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said the county currently has no large sites that are ready for a major manufacturer.
“As chairman of the chamber, I have three priorities: jobs, jobs and more jobs,” Bussell said, CEO of Chernoff Newman. “Elected officials help create the environment in which private companies can create jobs.
“This is a pivotal point for the county, to allow us to create jobs,” Bussell said. “We are in dire need of sites for new manufacturers. Specifically, the Shop Road extension would open up large sites for future development.”
A similar penny tax proposal was rejected by voters a few years ago, but supporters of the plan believe they have a combination of local citizen oversight, specific project plans and clarity of need to win this time.
But the plan is not without its critics. As the supporters rallied inside the Clarion Town House Hotel this morning, a dozen anti-tax protesters carried signs and shouted to motorists passing by on Gervais Street.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin added his voice to support for the penny tax.
“We cannot depend upon the state or federal government to make these improvements,” Benjamin said. “It’s going to be up to us.”