The campaign for a Lexington County Council seat spilled over Tuesday into public comment on a proposed Nov. 4 referendum for a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax.
Conservative activist Talbert Black of Red Bank was stopped from talking about what he sees as apparent conflicts of interest among council members who have received political contributions from tax supporters.
Council chairman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo blocked Black’s effort as political commentary seeking “to destroy somebody” in the guise of discussing the referendum.
Black was attacking Councilman Bill Banning, a Jeffcoat ally in a bitter re-election race, as the author of a major tax hike.
But Black was shut down after Jeffcoat warned that claims that any council member is promoting a tax hike are “as false as it can get.”
Council members are giving voters the choice of adding a tax to make long-wanted road improvements and other projects happen, Jeffcoat said.
“It’s not something we’re trying to force on anybody,” he said.
But Black called that misleading. “Saying you’re not attempting to implement a tax hike is ridiculous,” he said.
The exchange came after the nine council members advanced the referendum a second time, setting the stage for final approval June 25.
If adopted by voters, the proposed sales tax would pay for a $268.1 million package of 69 projects chosen by an advisory panel of civic leaders.
It would start next spring, last eight years and could be renewed at subsequent referendums.
About two-thirds of the package is for roads, with the remainder for paths, sidewalks, water, sewage, drainage, recreation, libraries and other facilities.
The current sales tax is 7 cents on the dollar. Groceries and prescription medicine would remain exempt from the proposed increase. The new tax would cost each resident an average of about $110 over its eight-year life.