Thank for the leadership, Speaker Lucas

If seems that Grover Norquist no longer runs the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Jay Lucas does. And he’s doing a good job. Along with Rep. Gary Simrill and everybody who voted for his bill yesterday.

It shouldn’t be remarkable that the House just voted to increase the state gasoline tax by (eventually) 10 cents a gallon. After all, everything about the situation would tend to lead any reasonable person to take that action:

  • We need road repairs.
  • We lack money for road repairs.
  • We have a tax that is dedicated to paying for road needs.
  • That tax is among the lowest in the country.
  • It hadn’t been raised for 30 years.

But as we know, our Legislature hasn’t been inclined to make calm, objective decisions with regard to taxes since the GOP took over in 1995. Since then, taxes have been for cutting, no matter the situation — because ideology rather than real-life conditions have ruled. And that approach, as the Speaker says, “simply places politics above responsible public policy.”

Speaker Jay Lucas

Speaker Jay Lucas

Of course, you don’t have to be an anti-government ideologue to have reservations about a tax increase. And in this instance, it would have been wrong to give DOT more money without reforming the governance of the agency. But this bill takes care of that, too.

Is this a done deal? Nope, because it still has to get through the Senate, which unlike the House isn’t run by anybody. As a body, it has been as allergic to DOT reform as the House used to be to tax increases. And that’s not the whole story. There’s also Sen. Tom Davis, whom The State today described as “libertarian-leaning,” which made me smile. Tom leans toward libertarianism the way Donald Trump leans toward self-aggrandizement.

But I want to praise Speaker Lucas and the House for getting us this far.

9 thoughts on “Thank for the leadership, Speaker Lucas

  1. Larry Slaughter

    Yes. It’s about time BUT I struggle to find a parallel with this bill’s call for additional registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles. Should we charge a hospital user fee for non-smokers because they didn’t pay enough cigarette taxes? Maybe a Baptist tax on grocery purchases unless they can prove they paid sufficient liquor taxes? (Teehee)

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The fee for electrics and hybrids makes sense to me.

      Your hospital analogy would only work if nonsmokers got lung cancer at the same rate as smokers.

      Non-gasoline vehicles also use the highways. And if they’re not buying gas at the same rate, they’re not paying their share of the cost of having safe roads.

      I’m all for encouraging people to drive electric. But a user of the highway is a user of the highway…

      1. Larry Slaughter

        Disclosure: My wife and I both drive a Prius. And Karen is right: my 2007 gets no better mileage than most newer model compacts.

        Let’s reverse the plan. SC pays out $30 a year to every owner of a vehicle with worse than 5 mpg.

        Bad public policy

  2. Karen Pearson

    How about gasoline cars that use close to the equivalent in mpg? Some of the compacts get in the same range as my prius does.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah. Once I rented a Corolla, and if I remember correctly I got better than 40 on the highway, which I thought was awesome.

      If I can ever again in my life afford a new car, I might get me one of those…

  3. Richard

    I have no problem with a gasoline tax, if it’s used for what it’s intended for. Repair roads, replace bridges, upgrade traffic lights… fine. Spending it on week long retreats in Hawaii for DOT executives, trips to Portland, OR to study their road systems, suites at sports arenas… not fine.

  4. bud

    “It hadn’t been raised in 30 years.”

    In nominal terms that’s true. In REAL dollar terms the gas tax is actually being cut every year since it’s based on the size of the commodity not the price. Since gasoline is far more expensive today than in the 80s we get less revenue accordingly. We don’t do that with the sales tax. If so the states coffers would be woefully shorted. Add to that the improved mileage of vehicles and it clear the DOT is losing ground. Let’s be sensible and provide the funding for this important agency to do its job. And let’s not pretend that another restructuring debacle is needed.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree with everything you say except, of course, the last part.

      Real reform of the kind I’ve called for for decades has never been tried at DOT. Not once.

  5. Scout

    Has anyone noticed that this bill also affects education funding. Apparently part of the current arrangement goes to EIA funds, and this bill changes that to have all the funds go to roads. I don’t know why this was ever the arrangement, and I’m all for funding the roads appropriately. But if this is the arrangement, and they are going to take this money away from Education – are they going to put it back from somewhere else?

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