Citizens to Lawmakers: Will a Tax Hike Fix THIS Road?

May 5, 2015

Inside Insight

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our specific roads

NEW WEB PAGE ALLOWS CITIZENS TO ASK LAWMAKERS SIMPLE QUESTION

On Tuesdays for the last two weeks, we’ve featured attempts by ordinary South Carolinians to ask their lawmakers a very simple question: If you raise our taxes, what kind of guarantee can you give me that our roads will be repaired? The questions haven’t been about roads in general, and citizens don’t want highfalutin talk about new appropriations and funding increases. They want to know whether a real increase in their taxes will result in specific roads being repaired.

Take the road pictured above, for instance. One of our readers drives on it every day. “It’s atrocious,” he tells us. “It’ll tear your engine to shreds unless you bring the car almost to a stop. I mean, what – is this the United States?”

It’s a state road (as indicated by the little black rectangular sign appended to the stop sign). Our reader sent the picture to his House and Senate member asking whether, if taxes go up for road maintenance, anything would be done about it.

Our reader’s question is a reasonable one, and it deserves a response.

Toward that end, the South Carolina Policy Council (The Nerve’s parent organization) has set up a web page from which citizens can email their lawmakers about their own roads. It couldn’t be easier. Just click the name of your House or Senate member, include the names of the roads or bridges you want to ask about, and send.

Why lawmakers? Because the state’s road funding system is run by lawmakers and their appointees. Sure, lawmakers don’t vote each road’s funding up our down in the legislature. But almost every person making key decisions about which roads get funded – Department of Transportation commissioners, members of the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank board, members of the Joint Transportation Review Committee – is either a legislator or was appointed by legislators.

The governor has a role in transportation funding (and she’s included on the Policy Council’s page), but that role is a limited one. The real power rests with a few legislative leaders. That’s the system lawmakers over the last several decades have put in place, and that’s the system they have consistently refused to reform. It follows that lawmakers – not the governor, not the anonymous bureaucrats at DOT, but lawmakers – should have to answer specific questions about which roads are likely to be fixed once they get their hands on new revenue.

To ask your lawmaker about roads you’re most concerned about, click here. And please forward any responses you get to news@thenerve.org. We’ll feature them on The Nerve on Tuesdays.