Governor shoots down tax hike to pay for new fire station

Governor Nikki Haley has vetoed a bill sponsored by an area senator that would have increased taxes for the Murrells Inlet/Garden City Fire District.

Senator Ray Cleary sponsored the bill in an effort to pay for the construction of a new fire station in that district.

The land for the new fire station has already been bought and cleared, and there is enough money to build a new fire station.

However, there isn't enough money to pay for a full-time staff, according to Fire District Board President Al Hitchcock.

He said seven new firefighters will need to be hired for that.

But Haley said the bill would set a precedent of allowing a district to increase taxes without voter approval.

"I am not opposed to the needs of a fire district, however I don't believe in backdoor approaches to raising taxes. Taxpayers have the right to know," she said on her Facebook page.

It's now up to the state's House and Senate members to override the veto or else the bill will be killed.

The bill would increase property taxes by $25, on average, if passed.

Hitchcock lives, owns a business, and pays taxes in Murrells Inlet.

He said he doesn't want to pay more taxes, but sometimes there's a clear need for it.

We asked him about the "backdoor approaches" described by Gov. Haley in her Facebook post.

"We did this as a business decision, and everybody that's on the board is a businessman. And, if we hadn't seen the positive to it, then we would have never asked for a tax increase," said Hitchcock.

Hitchcock added that the Murrells Inlet/Garden City Fire District area continues to grow. Therefore, it's important to build another fire station to keep up with the community's emergency response needs for the future.

He also said ISO will come out in 2015 and property insurance rates could climb. He says a new fire station could help keep those costs down.

The bill was ratified by the legislature on May 29 and sent to the governor for approval.

If it had been signed, the legislation would have allowed an increase of up to 14 mills.

Check back here for more updates on this story.