That’s no roads deal. It’s a cut-everything-else deal…

I’m running from meeting to meeting today, but here’s a topic to get y’all started:

The “good” news is that they don’t cut income taxes — which, of course, was always an insane, utterly irrelevant condition imposed by the governor.

So basically, it’s a wash. It’s a deal that does nothing to address the need for an adequate revenue stream for roads…

27 thoughts on “That’s no roads deal. It’s a cut-everything-else deal…

  1. Karen Pearson

    Um, do the idi–esteemed legislators remember that we need to do something about our water/sewer system before it crumbles into muck? Perhaps they recall the schools in the “corridor of shame” and the need for funds to remedy the problems there? Oh yes, do they happen to remember the problems DHEC is and DSS are facing? Might they consider that cutting back services for the poor may not be the best idea, since it can be hard to work if you’re hungry or sick.? Just askin’.

    1. Barry

      IT’s not just the corridor of shame.

      The base student cost the GA provides is some $700+ dollars less than what state law mandates- with no plan by those same legislators to provide what is required by law.

      This from the “law and order is everything” crowd- except of course when they don’t care about their own law.

      I pointed this out to Senator Kevin Bryant earlier this week. He replied to me that he “always” voted for full funding though an amendment.

      I asked him the obvious question: why through an amendment instead of straight out funding it? He wouldn’t respond.

      Of course the reason is that they can later vote the amendment down.

      So he was playing games with me in his response.

  2. Harry Harris

    The citizens of SC would support a 10 cent gas tax, partly paid by folks who drive through and help wear out the roads. What we need to do before diverting to “surplus” general budget money is to begin fund the needs mentioned above and build a very large reserve to be used to blunt the effects of the next economic downturn. It might not come soon, but it is coming. We were able to swim past two worldwide dips and the more recent SE Asia/China problems over the last six years, but a downturn or recession is coming eventually. Then, what ammo will we have as a state to avoid making it worse with state layoffs and cutbacks?

  3. Doug Ross

    You mean you’re opposed to compromise? Or are you opposed to setting priorities? I know you’re rarely opposed to raising taxes.

    Any tax hike should be limited to a five year period so we can see if the DOT actually uses the money for what it was intended.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m certainly not opposed to raising a tax that is one of the lowest in the country, is dedicated to a specific purpose and that purpose is demonstrably, obviously underfunded. Failing to raise a tax like that is insane, and perfect example of what happens when we govern according to boneheaded ideology instead of pragmatism.

      And this is the opposite of setting priorities. The lawmakers aren’t saying, “Let’s spend X percent less on this, and Y percent less on that, in order to achieve this goal.” They’re simply grabbing the money for roads without any thought to the impact it will have on other needs.

      And don’t think for a moment that the least important items will get the biggest cuts. It doesn’t work that way.

      You want to set priorities, set priorities. Stand up and say we’ll cut this amount from that, and add this amount to that. But they’re not doing that…

      1. Howard

        How about we use the gas tax we already pay for… I don’t know, roads and bridges? Taxes on certain products or services should not be used for general fund spending. Water and sewer funds should be used to maintain pipelines, lift stations, treatment plants not New Years Eve parties and city/county council retreats.

  4. Howard

    “The “good” news is that they don’t cut income taxes”

    How is this good news? Do you think you don’t pay enough income taxes? Do you wish to pay more for the few services that you actually receive?

    1. Barry

      No. South Carolina citizens aren’t highly taxed.

      Yes, would gladly pay more taxes to pay teachers and school staff workers more money.

      Yes, I would pay more for better roads, and bridges.

      I would pay more local taxes for better sidewalks in my small town so that I didn’t have to drive everywhere in my car.

  5. Bill

    ‘Maybe because I have some empathy for those guys who didn’t have a whole lot of entertainment in their lives. Or maybe because daily, coming down Sunset between home and downtown, I find myself caught behind those miserable, smelly trucks carrying hundreds of filthy-looking white chickens on their way to the slaughter. Talk about desensitizing… giving a chicken a fighting chance seems less cruel.’

    Love of The Common Man

  6. Lynn Teague

    It is appalling that funding for roads in the current bill would come out of education and other essentials. However, the responsibility for that outcome is broader than it might appear on the surface. Some gas tax supporters are adamantly opposed to reform of DOT and STIB, because they like the current politicized decision-making as long as they are among the politicians deciding where the money goes. So, getting any bill at all came down to dropping either reform of DOT and STIB or dropping the gas tax. Reform is extremely important. Without it we’d just see more money paid out to extend highways for the benefit of developers and their friends. So, yes, the Senate bill kicks the can down the road, but it isn’t just the far right Republicans kicking that can.

    1. Barry

      I am for both- tax increase- and some reform.

      I refuse to vote for any politician who promises “no tax increase” and I typically vote Republican for offices like US Senator and President.

      But I strongly support my local Democratic state senator and Democratic state legislator.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “it isn’t just the far right Republicans kicking that can”

      Absolutely. As always with the Senate, things are far more complicated than Democrats vs. Republicans. And Democrats have historically been some of the most adamant opponents of reform.

      The dichotomy here is more House vs. Senate — which has always been a clearer divide in our State House than parties. Speaker Lucas’ comments, which are much like my own, bear witness to that…

  7. Mark Stewart

    The Senate could raise the gas tax 100% and still claim, and let Hailey claim – that the tax rate was NOT increased.

    This fixed SC rate has not been increased since 1987. Inflation since 1987 has averaged 2.66% per annum . The current gas tax is 16.75 cents per gallon. The US national average is 30.29 cents per gallon (the highest state is Washington at 44.50 cents). Raising the gas tax to the national average – 30.29 cents – would still keep it under the value of the 1987 gas tax in 2016 dollars, which would be 35.86 cents.

    Simply put, any increase in the gas tax to a rate LESS THAN 35.86 cents is in fact a REDUCTION in taxes collected under the law. Let’s all just compliment the legislature for “cutting taxes” so they can go ahead and raise the rate to the national average – at which point the legislature – and Hailey – could rightly claim that they reduced the gas tax burden by 18.39%. And we would all have almost twice as much money to fund our roads.

    The position that we should continue to pay the gas tax with 1987 money is nothing short of asinine. No one would accept those dollars for anything else, anywhere. If our legislators are not willing to accept a pension and other benefits without any cost of living increases – EVER – than their intransigent demands that we continue to live in 1987 for the gas tax is ridiculous.

  8. Barry

    “The position that we should continue to pay the gas tax with 1987 money is nothing short of asinine”

    I have asked legislators on email and facebook this question – do they expect construction companies to get paid the same thing they did in 1987. Of course they don’t.

    But they never can make the connection between the gas tax being stuck in 1987. They are scared. It’s easier to stay scared than to tell people the truth.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Here’s what gets me, Barry — I’m pretty sure most people would see the need for the tax hike. Some of the most conservative people I know have advocated for raising it, and not always just to meet the dire road needs. (My former publisher Fred Mott, one of the most conservative people I’ve ever met and someone who normally hated all taxes with a passion, advocated for raising the tax to discourage fuel consumption — as opposed to raising mileage requirements, which he thought government had no business doing.)

      But these frightened rabbits in the Legislature don’t care about what MOST voters think. They care about a plurality of a minority — the ones that might vote against them in the next GOP primary if someone opposes them from the right.

      And so it is that government policy is set not from the center or the majority, but from extremes…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        If we did away with districts being drawn for incumbent protection — or rather, incumbent PARTY protection — it would largely eliminate this problem. Make more districts competitive, and incumbents will worry about opposition from the other party as much as they do their primaries. And suddenly they’ll start caring about what MOST voters care about…

        1. Doug Ross

          I, the anti-tax guy, am okay with hiking the gas tax with two conditions: it’s limited to five years and a prioritized list of road repair projects is identified and tracked to assess performance. Then we can determine if the roads have been repaired sufficiently to warrant extending it another five years. What’s wrong with that?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I would accept it as a compromise if I couldn’t get it any other way.

            The fact is that we know the current tax level is insufficient even to pay for routine maintenance, for the reasons Mark cites. It seems to me like a waste of political capital to have to fight this out again in five years. The problem is that the debate will never be data-driven, as you suppose. It will be driven, as is this one, by emotion and nonfact-based ideology.

            But if I couldn’t get the right level of funding AND reform any other way, I would go for your plan as being better than what the Senate GOP has proposed — even though it’s just another way of kicking the can down the road…

            1. Doug Ross

              You think Richland County voters would go for the penny tax again if it were up for revote this fall? Why can’t there be an expectation of adequate performance? Maybe tie some high level DOT jobs to the successful renewal. Some accountability would be refreshing.

              1. Barry

                I have no issue at all with Doug’s approach.

                I might say 7 years but I could live with 5.

                I’ve always said that I was happy for a gas tax increase, and I think the large majority of South Carolina would be for it too if it included provisions to hire an outside audit team to keep track of the expenses and income, make it publically available on a website, and make it so that it was easy to track.

          2. bud

            Doug I could agree with your five year plan in spirit but it’s really not long enough. There are just too many roads that are in desperate need of refurbishing. This is an ongoing situation that will likely take 20 years or more to fix. Besides if, after 5 years, it is deemed that the money was not used appropriately then what? Do we go back to the lower tax amount, which as has been pointed out is really half the inflation adjusted amount that it was in 1987, and sit back and watch the roads crumble? As Reagan once said trust but verify. But the follow up question is if the verify part reveals issues, then what?

        2. Lynn Teague

          Yes, so many problems will never be solved without redistricting to eliminate partisan protection. Unfortunately neither party’s incumbents would want that – the current system is what got them elected and too many of them have no ideals higher than their own reelection.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Which is why one day the gerrymandering issue will be the biggest whopper to ever go before the Supreme Court.

            what we have no is an unaccountable legislature – both nationally and at the state level – that requires the Court’s check to unaccountable power. By both parties.

Comments are closed.