Editorials

Here’s why you should vote ‘yes’ on Beaufort County’s sales tax for bridges and roads

This scene is typical of each weekday morning on U.S. 278 as commuters head to work on Hilton Head Island.
This scene is typical of each weekday morning on U.S. 278 as commuters head to work on Hilton Head Island.

Beaufort County voters need to approve the local transportation referendum question on Nov. 6.

The 1 percent transportation sales and use tax would raise $120 million for roads, bridges and sidewalks countywide that are greatly needed.

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The tax would last four years at most and then go away. A great deal of it — perhaps half — would be paid by non-county residents, an advantage that not all counties enjoy and one that Beaufort County should not squander.

It would address a streamlined list of local needs, not a long wish list voters have rejected in the past.

It would address growing congestion on Lady’s Island with practical and proven solutions, such as new turn lanes.

It would address the growing congestion on the causeway and bridges to Hilton Head Island, which is bumper-to-bumper every weekday morning with the work force, and on many Saturdays with people arriving for vacation. Both the daily commuters and visitors drive the economy, and their needs must be met.

It also would address the county’s lack of accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclers, particularly near schools and other public places.

It has the backing of the Coastal Conservation League and the Sea Island Corridor Coalition.

Some say that a “yes” vote would open the floodgates to development. That is not so. Those floodgates were opened decades ago, and these projects — all needed yesterday — would simply relieve existing problems. Development will continue as long as people have property rights and as long as capitalism reigns. Local governments are obligated to control and guide growth, but also to provide the public facilities it mandates.

Some say these are state problems, not local problems, and our state gasoline tax should pay for them. Some of that rings true, but we live by reality, not governmental theory. We can sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic shaking a fist at the state, or we can chip in to help, and thereby leverage our local contribution to attract state grants, which is the game plan here.

That is a proven method of operation for Beaufort County, and the taxpayers have never been let down by it. Without raising money locally, we could still be waiting for the state to widen S.C. 170 and its bridges between Beaufort and Bluffton. We could still be waiting for the Bluffton Parkway, desperately needed to offer an alternative to U.S. 278.

Without question, the bridges and approaches to Hilton Head need to be improved — now. The island’s property tax base and its jobs continue to provide a cash cow for all of Beaufort County.

Without question, road improvements between the Woods Memorial Bridge and the Chowan Creek Bridge as outlined in the Lady’s Island Corridor Study need to be addressed — now.

Voting “yes” on the sales tax referendum is the only way to make that happen.

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