Do we need the state to take over marketing of our region? We don’t think so, despite what Gov. Haley may say:
Excuse us if we were left feeling a little patronized by Gov. Nikki Haley this past week.
The governor breezed into town last Saturday as part of a statewide tour to tell supporters in person about how well she’s done during her first 100 days in office. While here in Myrtle Beach, she helpfully told us that we could stop worrying our pretty little heads about that whole tourism marketing issue and leave it to her to expand and improve our region’s largest industry.
“We in tourism are going to take care of what we need to do to promote our state,” she said.
Phew! It’s good to know we can stop worrying about that now and leave it to those “in tourism.” After all, the governor and the state know better than us how to market our area and what we have to offer, right?
The governor even came prepared with a couple of examples, prominent companies that held their conventions out of state because they couldn’t stomach the extra 1 percent tax they would pay in Myrtle Beach. “While you may see it as one penny, what they see is the difference between coming here or going to Asheville, N.C. It’s hurting us,” Haley said.
But wait. It turns out that perhaps those examples weren’t as solid as Haley may have liked. As City Manager Tom Leath and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Dean explained to the City Council this week in response, one of the groups cited by Haley has already booked its 2013 conference here, and the other chose to hold its conference in Washington, D.C. – which has higher tax rates than our area – just because that’s where its business contributors are. Myrtle Beach, in fact, has one of the lowest tax rates among its main competitors.
Those subsequent revelations leave us pondering a number of conclusions, all of which leave us disappointed. Either (1) Haley put her own spin on some surface information without bothering to look into it further, (2) she knew the examples wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny but blithely assumed nobody would challenge her or (3) somebody on Haley’s staff misled her into that assertion.
It’s particularly frustrating that a governor who went to Washington and confronted the president about giving more control to states would seek to take oversight of a local concern away from a locality and centralize it in the state capital. We believe we know our local industries and needs better than those in Columbia, in the same way that those in Columbia know our needs better than those in D.C.
We may not always agree on the use of our local tourism marketing funds, the way in which the tax was passed or the way in which the expenditures are divulged, but those are all complaints about the manner in which the tax is handled, not about the tax itself, which we do believe has had some positive effect. Beyond that, there’s little we can do to overturn the tax. Barring a movement toward a recall referendum that hasn’t surfaced, the tax will be collected until 2019. Complaining about the tax itself serves little practical purpose at this point.
So if Haley was not seriously calling for an end to the 1 percent sales tax, why bring it up? If we’re generous, we can say it was an attempt to dissuade other municipalities from following suit, as Hilton Head and North Myrtle Beach have both discussed the option recently. But, unfortunately, what seems more likely is that her comments stemmed from a calculated knowledge that coming out against taxes has never hurt a politicians career, especially when they know that stance won’t lead to any actual change.