On the gas-tax hike, lawmakers have ‘the best words’

April 21, 2017

Inside Insight, Uncategorized

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As the Senate debates, reason flies out the window

By HANNAH HILL

The state Senate began debating the gas-tax hike (their version of the bill is a straight-up tax hike of 12 cents a gallon) this week. Whenever large groups of politicians talk for long periods of time, you hear some real gems. Here are a few of the highlights.

“A responsible plan does not raid the general fund” to pay for roads. – House Speaker Jay Lucas

This quote is from a press conference held by House leaders shortly before the Senate began on Tuesday, urging it to follow the House example and do something about roads.

Lucas’s statement begs so many questions. When is using general fund revenue to pay for core functions of government considered a raid? And what is the general fund for if it’s not for core functions of government?

Of course, if all the currently dedicated streams of revenue just went to the general fund to be divvied out annually in the budget process, lawmakers would be forced to tackle some serious questions of prioritization — which is both a lovely and a terrifying thought, depending on whom you ask.

“This isn’t just about fixing roads, this is about putting people to work.” – Senate President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman

This is from a floor conversation Leatherman had with Senator Paul Campbell in which they agreed that the gas tax would be an economic development boon to South Carolina because it’s evidently going to rebuild the road industry.

According to the state Department of Transportation, our in-state contractors are completely unprepared for an influx of paving projects, so the plan is to slowly ramp them up and rebuild the road industry. Of course, it’s worth noting that Leatherman is a notable member of the road industry, as are a couple of DOT commissioners and the “Fix SC Roads” organization. Yay for economic development!

“We gotta stop killing and injuring people.” – Senator Paul Campbell

This was how Senator Campbell kicked off the roads debate. This one is strange in light of the aforementioned slow ramp-up in paving projects. If lawmakers really are killing 18.75 people a week, as Campbell explained, why not throw all the money at fixing them as quickly as possible with both in-state and out-of-state contractors?

 “Is there anyone in South Carolina who is dying because their taxes are not reformed?” – Senator Darrell Jackson

This one came when lawmakers were discussing whether or not to add tax swaps to offset the tax hike (a smoke-and-mirrors scheme, since whenever lawmakers reshuffle the tax code, government always comes out ahead). We can only hope this statement does not reflect lawmakers’ new policy litmus test.

“At a 12-cent increase…a South Carolinian can expect to pay $60 more per year. That’s driving 10,000 miles and getting 20 miles to the gallon. If you drive 20,000 miles a year, it would go up a little bit more. It would cost you about what one soft drink at a convenience store would cost you, a week.” – Senator Paul Campbell

In other words, you’ll hardly feel this tax hike. This was from the debate kick-off on Tuesday, which also happened to be tax day. Probably not the best timing on that one.

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