Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been hard at work to expose the local option sales tax (also termed LOST by some) as a detriment to local communities rather than helpful, especially with the recent allegations of corruption in Richland County, South Carolina.
“Reports are now coming out that reveal how politicians, lobbyists and other officials were defrauding the public,” David Schwartz, South Carolina state director at AFP, recently told Palmetto Business Daily.
Schwartz explained that the Department of Revenue is now investigating Richmond County in regards to how it was using these taxes.
“The claim was, ‘we will fix your roads,’ " he said. "Instead, it looks like they were lining their own pockets while nothing was really getting done."
Schwartz said the problems are not limited to Richland County.
“In other counties, we are trying to figure out how these local tax hikes are being sold to the people on a local level, and usually they are not keeping their initial promises,” Schwartz said. “The government is overcharging individuals rates for services rendered, or in most cases, not rendered.”
The AFP has been working to make sure the general public is aware of the alleged corruption that has been following the local taxes.
“We fought a good fight in Greenville in 2014, where we went door-to-door informing citizens of the problems with a 17 percent tax increase hike, where the county promised to fix roads," Schwartz said. "It failed 2 to 1 at the ballot."
Schwartz said the AFP wants to keep the public informed so they can hold their local governments accountable.
“We are concerned, and we want the public to be aware that the promises these local governments are making are too good to be true," Schwartz said. "When the money starts coming in, it creates secrecy and an enormous amount of corruption, and it gives a lot of power to a growing government."
Could a local tax to fix roads and other issues with infrastructure actually be successful under the right conditions? According to Schwartz, there would have to be significant transparency within the local and state government, and more trust on the part of the citizens.
“Right now, most citizens don’t trust politicians to believe anything they say," he said. "If there was more transparency, maybe more could be accomplished."
Transparency happens when politicians are “good actors” for the people rather than “bad actors.” If politicians are acting for the good of the people rather than for the good of themselves, then the people may trust them more, Schwartz said. Until then, he argues that convincing people local taxes will be used for what is initially promised is highly unlikely.
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