From the Island-Packet:
As the South Carolina legislature reconvenes this week, watch your wallets.
Top on many agendas will be raising the state gas tax. It sounds logical, but it’s a bad idea. It’s the easy way out to protect the good-old-boy system that has South Carolina’s roads riddled with potholes while new roads to nowhere are built for old-guard legislators.
First, the so-called need for $1.5 billion a year for road construction needs to be proven. The state says it needs that much every year for the next 29 years. Someone needs to shine a bright light on those “needs.” It is an unbelievable sum.
Second, measure existing revenue against true infrastructure needs, including flood repair. State Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort points out that the state has already been increasing roads funding and has a capacity to do more if that is its top priority — without a gas tax increase, or certainly with a more modest increase.
But then comes the hardest and most important part: dismantling the current, politically charged way of making roads decisions.
Get rid of the State Infrastructure Bank that runs alongside the SCDOT Commission doing its own thing under its own rules, which favor entrenched lawmakers.
If addressing needs is truly the goal, this dysfunctional way of making roads decisions must cease.
And legislators should avoid the gimmicky concept floated last year by Gov. Nikki Haley. She said that with a gas-tax increase must come an income-tax decrease. This would help the rich and hurt the poor. And the sharp decrease in general-fund revenue would cripple all the educational, social services, criminal justice and health care services of the state.
Davis filibustered for three weeks at the end of last year’s legislative session to keep the door open for transportation reform. We thank him and hope he will stick to his well-reasoned stand to address the true roads problem. The problem is governance, not money.
For more information on our transportation reform work, visit our project page.