Lawmakers, fire officials react to veto

  • Thursday, June 12, 2014

While local lawmakers say they intend to try to override Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of S293, which would allow the Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire District to raise its millage cap, district officials are considering their options.
On her Facebook page, the governor said:
“I have vetoed S293 a bill by Sen Cleary that will allow a fire dist to increase taxes without voter approval setting a precedent for other dists to do the same. Pls contact your Senator and tell them that you expect them to vote NO. I am not opposed to the needs of a fire district, however I don't believe in backdoor approaches to raising taxes. Taxpayers have the right to know. Thank you!”

Sen. Ray Cleary's bill, which was approved by the Senate by a 20-3 roll call vote Feb. 6 and sent to the House after a voice vote, Feb. 18, would have expanded the state-mandated millage cap from 10 mills – set when the district was founded in 1966 to 14 mills.
A mill equals $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
The House approved the measure 22-18 May 27 and by a voice vote May 28.
Fire district chairman Al Hitchcock said he is not hopeful of an override.
“We think we might get it through the Senate, but not the House,” he said. An override requires a two-thirds supporting vote in both the House and the Senate.

He added that any action would come after the June 17 override vote.
One vote supporters of lifting the cap cannot count on is that of Stephen Goldfinch, who voted against the bill in the House.
“I will vote to sustain the veto,” Goldfinch said. “It's not that I don't support the fire district. The people should have the right to vote whether to lift the cap.”
He added that a referendum should be held in November  – and it would be nonbinding.
“I can guarantee it would pass both houses [of the General Assembly] and it would be signed quickly.
“Many of my constituents south of the firehall don't agree with the whole premise that the ISO is going to fall apart, that the insurance would go up,” he said.

Proponents of the measure have said raising the cap is needed to build and staff a fourth fire station on McDowell Shortcut Road.
District officials have made the point that without the new station, it is possible that insurance rates for the district would increase.
Hitchcock said that while he is disappointed by the governor's veto, it will not affect fire and emergency medical services.
“If there is a fire, and people  call 911, we will still answer,” he said.

The governor is enjoying nearly a 10-to-1 approval of her action on her Facebook page, but among those voicing opposition was Bill Fancher, president of the Murrells Inlet Garden City Professional Firefighters Association.
“The members of Murrells Inlet Garden City Professional Firefighters Association are truly disappointed with Governor Haley's decision to veto Senate Bill 293,' he posted.
He cited a public hearing held April 29, 2013, where there was overwhelming support for the millage cap lift.

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