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A penny could be worth millions

Posted: October 14, 2010 4:36 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2010 5:00 a.m.

With the Boston Tea Party, colonists who would soon call themselves Americans took a stand: taxation without representation would not be tolerated.

The founding fathers said they were willing to pay taxes, but just wanted to have a voice in setting them.

In the years to come, they elected representatives to state houses and Congress and likely participated in stump meetings or other gatherings where taxation issues came up and voted -- both at the polls and with their wallets.

I may not like taxes, but don’t mind paying my fair share if I believe the money is being put to good use.

I had no problem with calls for Kershaw County Council to consider a penny capital projects sales tax. After learning more about the tax, how it will work and what it will be used for, I still have no problem with it.

I applauded council’s decision to have a committee of citizens decide what projects to fund to pass the full measure directly to the voters on Nov. 2

The people get to vote on whether to enact a tax? That is truly taxation with representation.

That reflected a great measure of respect to us as citizens -- an assumption that we can make informed, reasonable decisions. And if people chose not to attend a public forum on the tax, that is not the fault of those proposing or supporting the tax.

I happen to think the tax is a very forward-thinking idea.

It calls for each of us to pay just a little bit of money to fund projects that will help Kershaw County for generations.

Not only that, but I believe the projects could pay out millions in economic dividends.

For instance, one project would create new and expanded recreation facilities in Camden, the West Wateree, Bethune, Westville and Mt. Pisgah.

That not only assists those communities, but could lead to usage by outside groups for a fee. Concessions will be sold. Other businesses could set up shop nearby to take advantage of the people coming to these facilities. That’s jobs and dollars.

Helping to partly fund KershawHealth’s proposed transformation of Burndale Shopping Center into a new outpatient and urgent care center could produce both economic and health care dividends. Right now, depending on their needs, Kershaw County patients either travel all the way to Elgin or even Columbia or crowd into the emergency department. Also, the expansion of those services into that space will produce more jobs.

Central Carolina Technical College could receive funds to expand its campus here. That is a huge plus for students in this county who want to take advantage of the type of education CCTC can provide. That means a better trained local workforce which is able to command better jobs and/or higher pay.

Libraries are tied to education and the Kershaw County Library system is actually one of the best I’ve ever seen. But there’s no doubt Elgin’s library has gotten too small in comparison to the population rising around it. A better, more functional library will provide educational dividends that can turn in to economic ones.

An all-weather competition arena at the S.C. Equine Park? That park is one of the best things to happen to Kershaw County in a long, long time. It is already bringing equine competitors and enthusiasts from all over the country to the county nearly every weekend. Continuing to upgrade the facility can only bring in more tourist dollars.

Adding more infrastructure to Governor’s Hill Business Park will make the site even more attractive to prospective industry. Again, more jobs equals more money coming into the county, helping to raise everyone’s quality of life.

Two projects that might be raising eyebrows are replacing Bethune’s water system and installing a county veterans memorial in Camden’s Monument Square.

Bethune has contended with an inferior water system for years. According to those in favor of the tax, water flow has been reduced, posing health and firefighting risks in the area. This is one of those projects that, yes, is going to benefit one particular set of residents a bit more than others.

But if you have family in Bethune or visit it, wouldn’t you like to know that the water there is safe to drink and that firefighters have the water they need to do their job?

As for the veterans memorial, there is no more noble thing than to honor the generations of men and women who have sacrificed themselves since Kershaw County was founded.

The memorial can also serve as a tourist attraction, bringing more of those aforementioned dollars to the area.

Two things to remember: 1) the tax is only for eight years and cannot be renewed or extended, and 2) groceries and unprepared foods are exempt, so we won’t be taxing people on one of the most essential things they buy each week.

Finally, all of these projects will create immediate jobs as contracts are handed out for construction and renovation.

Opponents say we can’t afford this tax right now. That there are those who have lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts. That we shouldn’t burden them.

I wish we could exempt certain people. But to make a tax fair, everyone has to pay their share.

I believe this tax truly has the potential to be “pennies for progress” benefiting everyone, paying out dividends for years to come.



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