House considering override of Governor's veto of bill increasing taxes to pay for new fire station

Update: WPDE was notified around 4 p.m. Wednesday that Governor Haley's veto was sustained.

South Carolina House members are returning to Columbia on Wednesday to take up two of Gov. Nikki Haley's vetoes, one with a direct impact for the Grand Strand.

One bill being considered is intended to help South Carolina's public libraries keep out disrupters. The other is a local bill allowing a tax hike for firefighting in coastal Murrell's Inlet and Garden City.

A spokesman for House Speaker Bobby Harrell said on Friday that the House will hold a special, one-day session on Wednesday to decide whether to override vetoes left over from the session that ended in June.

Both of the bills being considered are Senate bills. The Senate voted overwhelmingly to override Haley's opposition, but those votes occurred in the last days of an extended legislative session, after the House already had gone home. An override requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Governor Haley vetoed the bill that would have increased taxes for the Murrells Inlet/Garden City Fire District, saying that it would set a precedent of allowing a district to increase taxes without voter approval.

Senator Ray Cleary who represents parts of Murrells Inlet and Garden City 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, but 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 dangerous precedent.

"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.

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

Hitchcock lives, owns a business, and pays taxes in Murrells Inlet and said he doesn't want to pay more taxes, but sometimes there's a clear need for it.

"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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.