Vet Bill – What about “subsidizing”?

You may remember last legislative session when Davey Hiott of Pickens tried to impose restrictive regulations on spay/neuter clinics and veterinarians who chose a non-traditional practice, such as shelter medicine or mobile veterinary services. It was stopped.

But along comes Danny Verdin, whose father is a vet, wanting to give it another shot. Previous legislation introduced by Verdin has tried to interfere with PRIVATE grants, restrict the services a fully-licensed vet in SC can perform, and interpose the judgment of legislators over the choices of pet owners in deciding who they turn to for preferred vet care.

There has been a series of listening tours in the past month, you can listen to the audio and read some of the documentation supplied here.

I’m going to put forth a series of blogs with my thoughts. Today I’ll begin by countering one of the fallacies the vets and Pat Hill, SC Association of Vets mouthpiece keep repeating over and over and over … “These spay/neuter clinics are subsidized by taxpayers, so therefore, legislators should restrict their services because it’s unfair competition for veterinarians.” (And of course, our pockets are our chief concern.)

I’ll likely put out several blogs on this issue. Here’s today’s offering:

What about “subsidizing”?

Several vets spoke about “subsidized with tax dollars” as a compelling reason, in their minds, to ask you to pass legislation somehow limiting or interfering with the business models of nonprofit clinics. Is that a true assessment? Let’s take a quick look at that. Suppose a county municipality has a situation where some of their street lights and safety lighting in communities are not working, in need of repair. They do not have appropriate resources and personnel trained to provide that repair service on staff. So they contract with a private company, Best Practice Electrical, to take care of that problem in the community. Best Practice Electrical sends them an invoice, the county pays and a business transaction is accomplished to both parties’ satisfaction. According to the vets and the SC Assn of Vets, Best Practice Electrical has been “subsidized with taxpayer dollars”. How so?

A municipality is required by law to provide animal care and control services. Most do not own their own shelter, but contract with a private organization, such as a humane society. That humane society, operating under their own self determined mission statement offers many services, one of which is intake of stray and owner release animals for a county, and some shelters have an in-house spay/neuter clinic. When the humane society invoices the county for services of holding, adopting, or euthanizing stray or owner turn in animals, they are paid in taxpayer dollars. Because a county HAS NO OTHER INCOME SOURCE than its taxpayers. Tell me, what is the difference between Best Practice Electrical and this humane society? They both provided services as requested, they both were paid out of the same pool of funds. The difference is, other electrical contractors are not whining to legislators to penalize Best Practice Electrical for having a valid business contract with the county.

You cannot choose to work in the for profit sector with its benefits and yet seek redress through legislation for “unfairness” when those very differences are inherent in the nature of the two business models.

October 21, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  No Comments

‘Penny for Pavement’ Vote Isn’t about Pavement

We’ve been reading and hearing about the Greenville Grocery Tax. But there are other counties whose County Councils are trying to enact tax increases. And SURPRISE! Most of them are “for the roads”. You know. The equivalent of “For the Children” when they want more money for schools.

Here’s Talbert Black reporting at TheNerve.org to explain what’s going on in Lexington…

On November 4th Lexington County residents will vote on a local option sales tax. If passed, voters will increase the sales tax paid in Lexington County from 7 percent to 8 percent for the next eight years. The South Carolina Department of Revenue estimates that the increased tax rate will bring in $290 million.

On the ballot is a prioritized list of 92 projects the tax will fund. The first 69 are styled “high priority” projects and are expected to be covered by the projected revenue collections. The remainder the projects are “low priority” and will be funded if revenue collections exceed expectations. In effect, then, citizens are given the option to vote for all 92, or against all 92. There is no option to chose which projects you like or dislike.

The very last paragraph of the ballot question – which on the sample ballot provided by the state Election Commission spreads across six pages – also gives the county permission to issue general obligation bonds of up to $150,000,000. Should the bonds not be paid back with the sales tax, then they’ll be guaranteed with a mandatory ad valorem tax on all taxable property in Lexington County.

So citizens will actually be giving permission for two tax increases in Lexington County: the first, a 1 percent increase in sales tax; the second, an unlimited increase in property tax in order to meet the $150 million bond.

Proponents of the new tax, including the Greater Lexington Chamber, the Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia, and Lexington County Development Corporation, among others, call it “A Penny for Pavement.” They point to the steadily deteriorating state of roads in the county as the primary purpose for the tax. Opponents, however, point out that only 15 percent of the money allocated to high priority projects will go toward actual paving or resurfacing roads.

Proponents also contend that the money must be used only for the projects on the ballot, and only in the order of priority as listed on the ballot. Yet the ballot’s language gives the County Council the ability to rearrange project priority for a wide variety of reasons – so many reasons, they fear, that the Council will be able to rearrange project priority at will.

Read more at the link above. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

Further analysis shows that, of the cost of all projects on the ballot, 40 percent has nothing to do with roads or infrastructure. In fact, projects such as a walking trail, a leisure center, and a baseball complex actually have a higher priority than resurfacing county-owned roads.

Oliver highlights items 29 and 36 on the ballot, which itemize $3.16 million to improve 16-inch and 12-inch water mains and build a 500,000 gallon water tank – both for the City of Columbia to sell water to Chapin.

But that’s not the only problem. Columbia’s water infrastructure has fallen into disrepair as city managers have redirected water and sewer income to other projects. The city, according to a 2010 report in The State, has “siphoned nearly $79 million in the past 11 years from its water and sewer fund to pay for other parts of city government.”

October 21, 2014  Tags:   Posted in: Uncategorized  No Comments

Spartanburg County Council approves land-use planning

Felicia Kitzmiller reports at SHJ:

Spartanburg County Council gave planning experts the green light to proceed with a land-use strategy that could guide development of residential, commercial and industrial properties in the future.

The council voted unanimously to approve the measures recommended by the Spartanburg County Planning Commission. The framework of the initiative, dubbed “Area Performance Planning,” divides the counties into zones with similar characteristics. Roads in each of those zones would then be characterized as arterial, collector or local, and land use regulations would be based on the classification of the roads adjacent to the property.

“It’s going to be a long, drawn out process to get there, but we think this is a good place to start,” Planning Commission Chairman Whit Kennedy said.

County Council also ratified the Planning Commission’s proposal that the planning begin in the southwest planning area, home to three of the county’s recent economic development announcements – Toray Industries, the BMW Manufacturing expansion and Bass Pro Shops – and important transportation routes.

Bob Harkrader, planning department director, said the land-use plan has the greatest potential to do good in that area.

“We’re going to try to get out in front of growth, which I’ll be the first to admit it, we failed miserably at in Boiling Springs,” Kennedy said.

To this point, Councilman David Britt said the county has been reactionary in terms of land use – relying on an outdated development code, troubleshooting problems as they arise and taking a piecemeal approach to land use. The council has debated land-use planning in the past, but always fell short from a lack of leadership and a deep suspicion of anything that might violate individual property rights.

Britt said he thinks this time will be different because of strong administrative leaders who have crafted an approach that protects property rights and realizes that Spartanburg is changing as a result of economic development.

Britt also said this will help economic development by establishing rules that industries can count on when purchasing property. In the past, companies were able to buy large parcels to buffer themselves from encroachment by incompatible building, but the availability of large plots is dwindling, along with the ability of businesses to finance large land purchases.

Councilman Roger Nutt said he is “extremely cautiously optimistic” about the proposal. Its success or failure will depend on the county’s ability and willingness to invest in areas of targeted growth and create infrastructure that will sustain and accommodate heavy use. If not, he said, it will amount to a list of regulations.

Chairman Jeff Horton commended outgoing councilmen Dale Culbreth and O’Neal Mintz for their work on the outlines of the plan and told councilmen-elect Bob Walker and Justin Bradley the proposal will represent a lot of work for them in the coming term that starts in January.

Bradley, who lives in Boiling Springs, said he supports the plan, and points to Hwy. 9 as an example of an area where infrastructure investment in advance of development would have been greatly beneficial.

“This new approach is based on clear, predictable growth trends in the county and will balance private property rights of landowners and needs of economic development,” Bradley said in a written statement. “This proposal also realizes that what works in one area of the county may not work for another area and allows individual communities to develop requirements specific to their needs.”

Harkrader said the next step is for the planning commission to begin classifying roads in the southwest planning area, an undertaking he said would likely take about a month. An update will be given to the Planning Commission at their Nov. 4 meeting. Horton said he expects planning recommendations to continue coming before the council for the next year.

October 21, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  2 Comments

Spartanburg County OPPOSES Federal Expansion under EPA

Can you get your County Council to pass this resolution? Can you imagine the statement if all 46 SC Counties passed it?

Tonight in an unanimous vote (hopefully we’ll have video in the next day or so) Spartanburg County Council said “Stay out of our county’s business” to the EPA.

CLICK HERE to view the Resolution on Councilman Roger Nutt’s website. I may get a version that I can copy/paste in here tomorrow.

October 20, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  3 Comments

Planning Vs. Reacting : Which is it Spartanburg?

Councilman Roger Nutt poses this question on his website today.

Go to Roger’s website and add yourself to his email list so you don’t miss any info from him!

Click the link above to read the below in its original form, including the links to other sources Rogers provides

I’m not much of a planner. Thankfully, I was blessed with the skill set of luck – which explains my marriage to my beautiful bride. She is a planner, and a very good one. When we go on vacation she is the one that takes care of the when and the where and, because I’m a control freak, I take on the how.

If I was to take on the planning role it might look a little different. I would start by mandating that all of the vehicles along my route could only drive in the right lane. Only cars driving faster than me could get into the left lane but only if they were more than a mile ahead. I would require that the theme park we were headed to had to close its gates to the public while we were there and that all of the food offered had to be sold at real world prices. There would be more to it than that, I’m sure, but that’s a good start. I don’t really see Tracy giving up her role anytime soon, however, and that’s probably for the best.

I’m sure my idea of planning may seem downright silly. How can you plan on something you don’t own or control? Planning is defined as identifying the goals or objectives to be achieved, formulating strategies to achieve them, arranging or creating the means desired and implementing, directing and monitoring all steps in their proper sequence. This idea of Planning sounds much more productive.

You may have read in last week’s SHJ a very well written article by Felicia Kitzmiller concerning a new land use plan that is in the works for Spartanburg County. As many of you know, Spartanburg has a Planning Department that gets its direction from a Planning Commission. (You can find out more about the Commission HERE) As the name implies, the Planning Commission should be planning. If you ask the commissioners themselves, however, you will find that there has never really been much planning going on. It should really have been called the Reacting Commission. An issue would come up, someone would complain, Council (through the PC) would pass a provision to take care of it. As you can see, that is not exactly the definition of planning. Planning is about looking ahead at what the future holds – knowing where we are and exactly where we want to be. So to hear that our Planning Commission (and our Council) wants to take a serious look at our past, present and future and really get involved in some REAL planning – thrills me to no end!

As I read the above mentioned article and several other editorials, one thing continues to pop out as an assumption that is obviously shared by many: Planning means regulating, and in this case – not unlike my very silly scenario earlier – regulating something we don’t own or control. It seems to me that planning should go something like this: (1) Growth potential is recognized; (2) Current Infrastructure is not currently adequate; (3) County spends resources to upgrade and update infrastructure to meet growth; (4) Growth occurs based on free-market principles; (5) Tax base increases due to growth. Instead we typically see this scenario: (1) Growth potential is recognized; (2) Current Infrastructure is not currently adequate; (3) Private property is restricted due to inadequate infrastructure; (4) Businesses and families are directed to another area where they don’t want to be; (5) Growth and tax base is restricted.

Why is it that government tends to want to regulate instead of making the tough decisions to do the very things we were put here to do: Provide safety and infrastructure to our community? I have heard numerous times already that there are subdivisions going in on roads too small to accommodate them. Why is our lack of infrastructure the problem for the people wanting to raise their family in the neighborhood? If a road is too narrow, I feel it is our duty as the manager of the infrastructure to accommodate the increase in traffic so that people are able to live where they wish. Why should we as a government decide where you raise your family? When a development is proposed, we should be the first one to the table asking “How can we make this work?” The obvious question which then arises is “Where do we get the money for the infrastructure?” The answer is simple: Farm Land brings in around $0.30 per 1/3 acre. Residential housing could bring in $2000 per 1/3 acre. If you wanted me to spend a one-time $100,000 in order to bring in $300,000 per year forever…That’s a pretty easy decision.

Several times over the last year I’ve heard that “We don’t have any land use regulations”. Just for the record, we have over 250 pages of land use regulations that regulate just about any business and residence that you can think of. I encourage you to read it for yourself HERE.

Here is another comment that I hear over and over and over again: “We don’t want a Woodruff Road debacle to happen here!” I could not agree more. I recently had to work off of Woodruff road and the traffic is absolutely horrendous. Strangely enough, this comment is typically uttered as to why we need stricter land use regulations. I mean, how you could put a Cabela’s off of the most overcrowded road in Greenville County? It must be because they don’t have any land use regulations, right? Wrong. As with most government regulations, ONLY the big money wins when it comes to land use. Greenville County and especially Woodruff Road are extremely regulated. They have full blown Zoning requirements and land use regulations that make our requirements look like they came from the Founding Fathers. Zoning and Land Use Regulations don’t stop Woodruff Road Debacles. Planning stops Woodruff Road Debacles.

In the end, this will be a great time for Spartanburg County. This process will be informative and exciting and very serious. It will take everyone, and I mean everyone, to get involved and share thoughts on exactly what Spartanburg is to be in our very bright future. The growth and excitement IS coming. The question is will we be ready – not ready to restrict, suppress, direct and drive out – but ready to accommodate, encourage and support the growth that will make us an even greater County and Community. The planning process as outlined to me seems to strike a wonderful balance between private property rights and protection. Your Council is determined to set a priority of investing in our infrastructure to aid in accommodating growth. We will start small and encourage a great deal of community input, so I encourage everyone to keep an open mind and be ready to get involved to help make a difference. I am very excited for the future of this great county. I know we have it in us to do great things and I see this process as a great tool to get us to where we all want to be: A free, prosperous, family and business friendly place to live, work and play.

October 20, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  2 Comments

Butch Kirven says “legislative fix for grocery tax”. Senator Martin says “not”.

Check out this video from a WSPA news story last week on Greenville’s Grocery Tax:

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

In it, Greenville Council Chair Butch Kirven says:

“We were surprised and disappointed to find we made a mistake in this ordinance” (re: including taxing groceries)

“We are starting to work with our legislative delegation to get it fixed in Columbia / Plan to prefile a bill in January.”

Really Butch? ’cause Senator Shane Martin says that’s not going to happen.

According to Senator Martin’s website which we posted about last week:

I cannot assure voters that Columbia will “fix” the problem and, indeed, Columbia could actually make it worse. However, if the voters approve this tax increase, there will be nothing to “fix” as the voters will have already spoken!

According to Senator Martin, legislators in Columbia are not inclined to overturn the will of the voters just because a local Council guy asks. Would you want your local Council guys running to Columbia to legislators to overturn ordinances that YOU voted on? Who thinks that is a good precedent?

In Senator Martin’s view, if voters vote FOR this Grocery Tax now that they know what is in it, the assumption by legislators is they wanted it. Or they’d vote no.

The only solution available to Greenville Council and Butch Kirven is to withdraw the ordinance. But don’t expect your delegation to cover your butt.

And … I think I’ve read that FOIAs have gone out re: this ordinance. I would be very interested in learning exactly when the council knew that groceries would be taxed.

Very interested.

October 20, 2014  Tags: ,   Posted in: Uncategorized  One Comment

Eric Holder’s Justice Department caught BIG TIME

I’m thinking there are HUNDREDS of stories like this, but not many so significantly rebuffed, and reported in a mainstream / left leaning source.

By Sidney Powell at the New York Observer:

In perhaps the most stunning documentation yet of abuses by Eric Holder’s Justice Department, two former Assistant United States Attorneys spoke to defense attorneys and revealed appalling deceit and corruption of justice. This latest litigation time bomb has exploded from multi-million dollar litigation originally brought by the Department of Justice against Sierra Pacific based on allegations that the lumber company and related defendants were responsible for a wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres in California.

In what was dubbed the “Moonlight Fire” case, the tables are now turned. The defendants have discovered new evidence and filed a stunning motion. The new evidence and disclosures are being taken seriously by the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of California—as they should be. In a shocking action, Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ordered the recusal of every federal judge in the Eastern District of California.

In an extraordinary development, Judge England, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, ordered the recusal of all the Eastern District judges from the case because of serious allegations that the Court itself was defrauded by the government in the original prosecution.

The defendants also reveal that another former federal prosecutor, Eric Overby, left the Moonlight Fire prosecution team also, stating: “It’s called the Department of Justice. It’s not called the Department of Revenue.” According to the motion, Mr. Overby told defense counsel that in his entire career, “I’ve never seen anything like this. Never.”

The entire original prosecution against Sierra Pacific appears to have been driven by the Department of Justice’s interest in hitting a “deep pocket” for millions of dollars of revenue. The Defendants’ motion to set aside the settlement reveals a series of fraudulent acts by federal and state authorities that defiles our system of justice.

There’s a bit more of the story at the link above.

October 19, 2014  Tags: ,   Posted in: Uncategorized  3 Comments

No Legislative Fix for Greenville Grocery Tax

Kerry Wood at Citizens for a Free Market weighs in on the “legislative fix”…

It is important to note the following Greenville County Council members have opposed this tax increase: Dill, Meadows & Cates.

Did they know or didn’t they (Greenville County Council) that the tax increase on the ballot would include a new tax on groceries? What a dilemma they are faced with: admit you did know and you look like a liar, especially after sending out mailers and other information specifically stating it did not include groceries. Admit you didn’t know and you look incompetent, and if you are not competent enough to properly word a referendum to exclude taxing groceries, then how are the people supposed to have confidence in how tax dollars are spent and why would we entrust them with even more?

Now that the grocery tax has been exposed, it makes it unlikely this referendum will pass as it stands. Knowing this, some members of Greenville County Council are now promising to remove the grocery tax portion, but unfortunately they are making a promise they cannot deliver on. We have seen this movie before: Politicians promise to fix something that is out of their control, so they can then turn and blame another political body and throw their hands up and say, “so sorry, we really tried…”

The fix these councilmen are trying to make you believe they will try is a legislative fix. They want you to believe they will send this to Columbia and surely the good senators and house members will remove this grocery tax, right? Nope! The fact is, there will be plenty of legislators who will want to remove it, BUT once the voters have their say at the ballot box and they have actually voted to have a grocery tax, the will of the people will not be undone. The last thing legislators want to be seen doing is overturning a local election from Columbia, and how many of us even want them to start down that road?

State Senator Shane Martin is making this crystal clear to voters and to the councilmen pushing this before the election takes place.

It is troubling that Greenville County Council mishandled the ordinance and that it allows for a tax on groceries. I had hoped that they would do the right thing and pull the ordinance from the ballot instead of just asking the voters to “trust them”. I cannot assure voters that Columbia will “fix” the problem and, indeed, Columbia could actually make it worse. However, if the voters approve this tax increase, there will be nothing to “fix” as the voters will have already spoken!

Another dilemma for Greenville County Council: Do they admit as elected officials that they really didn’t understand this beforehand and continue to look incompetent?

October 18, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  One Comment

Senator Shane Martin weighs in on the Greenville Grocery Tax

Isn’t this the same thing we Republicans decry when activist judges overturn the will of the voters after a Referendum vote? Good for you, Shane Martin for laying out that it is not up to Columbia to use that tactic. “However, if the voters approve this tax increase, there will be nothing to “fix” as the voters will have already spoken!”

From Senator Martin’s website:

Dear Greenville County Voters,

I recently learned that the referendum on the November 4, 2014 ballot which will ask you to raise county sales taxes by one cent, ostensibly to fund roads, will affect things very differently than you may have been lead to believe.

The ordinance, if passed, will add one cent to the sales tax for groceries, among other items. This, of course, was not how the proposal was explained when the ordinance for it was being pushed through County Council, and I hope that it would have changed some minds if it was included in the explanation. Groceries, which are currently not taxed, will be taxed if the referendum passes.

I do believe that sometimes mistakes can be made, but I find it curious that this mistake, as with most, will be detrimental to the taxpayers. Nonetheless, the “mistake” means that for some period, and perhaps a long period, Greenville County taxpayers will pay taxes on their groceries. I understand that Greenville County Council may ask Columbia to “fix” their “mistakes”. You and I both know things rarely get “fixed” in Columbia, especially when it comes to taxes. Anytime something needs to be “fixed” it usually ends up being worse for the taxpayers, and this likely will end up the same.

It is troubling that Greenville County Council mishandled the ordinance and that it allows for a tax on groceries. I had hoped that they would do the right thing and pull the ordinance from the ballot instead of just asking the voters to “trust them”. I cannot assure voters that Columbia will “fix” the problem and, indeed, Columbia could actually make it worse. However, if the voters approve this tax increase, there will be nothing to “fix” as the voters will have already spoken!

I therefore urge the voters of Greenville County to oppose the tax hike that has been sold to them as something other than what it is. Greenville County Council always can pass another ordinance that is written as it is explained and go again to the voters. This ordinance, however, purports to be something that it is not, and that simply is unfair and dishonest to the voters.

Regards,

Shane Martin
SC State Senator – District 13
Greenville, Spartanburg, and Union Counties
P.O. Box 575 Pauline, SC 29374
Cell 864-804-8499

October 17, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  No Comments

Conversation with School District 5 continues

(Jim McMillan/Michelle Wiles to Rick Eitel)

Thanks for letting me know you got our email.

The citizens input of suggestions should be made public for all to see. Therefore I respectfully request that you post them or send them to me and I will make them public. Please do not redact the name.

We all want a school where the children are safe and given an opportunity to learn and allow other children to learn. you have heard the saying, you can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the people, but you can’t please all the people all of the time. The majority of the voters , almost two to one, said they do not want their taxes raised, we believe the issues can be addressed within the $69,000,000.00 budget.

We would like to be furnished the Byrnes teachers schedules ( not names) with class times and subjects. Are they paid full time salaries?

Respectfully,

Jim McMillan and Michelle Wiles

October 17, 2014   Posted in: Uncategorized  No Comments