Gov. Haley takes on penny sales tax at Horry County meeting

A crowd of more than 300 people came out to Socastee High School for their chance to talk with Governor Nikki Haley one on one.

The meeting Thursday night lasted for about two hours, and the audience asked Haley several questions on topics ranging from healthcare to feral cats.

The major issue was Haley's view on the City of Myrtle Beach's penny sales tax passed by council in 2009.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce uses those funds for advertising.

A preliminary report shows it paid off. More people are not only coming to Myrtle Beach, they are returning.

The newly elected governor is against it and says it's costing the state business conferences. "We have a two for one match when it comes to tourism. You're going to see South Carolina and our state department get very involved with that. What we're saying is don't keep taxing your residents, don't keep taxing everybody, thinking more people will come. That's the opposite approach. They'll start to go out."

Haley added, "You can't tax your way into prosperity."

Others, including tourism and business leaders, disagree.

"Occupancy rates are rising. We're double digit sales tax return this coming year. We've got three percent increase over last year already in our airport, so we're starting to see the results of our marketing efforts," said Mark Lazarus, business owner.

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean tells NewsChannel 15, "Until she presents us with her plan that guarantees to deliver the results we've created along the Grand Strand, we will continue to guarantee them for ourselves. Future jobs along the Grand Strand, tourism growth to the Myrtle Beach area, and the infrastructure and economic development needed do not have the luxury of waiting."

Governor Haley also addressed the legislative report card.

She says it's a way to keep track of what House and Senate members are doing in Columbia.

This report card has drawn critism and House bill 3919 introduced Thursday aims to judge Haley's effectiveness as governor in two arenas; economic development and transparency.

Haley says she doesn't mind being graded.

This won't be the last time those in our area will get the chance to talk with Haley one on one.

She plans to come back in the fall and twice a year while she's in office.