Having successfully passed a cigarette tax hike to fund unsustainable Medicaid growth, so-called “Republican” leaders in the S.C. General Assembly are now considering an increase in the gasoline tax to pay for the state’s sprawling road system.

Seriously, South Carolina¬† … you didn’t think that state lawmakers staring down declining revenues were actually going to cut government or prioritize core functions, did you?

Of course not …

Lawmakers have toyed with a gas tax increase in previous years, but never pulled the trigger on it. This year there will be a major legislative push to raise the tax, however, as both the S.C. Department of Transportation and a legislatively-created Taxation Realignment Commission are advocating in favor of a tax hike.

The current proposed increase would take the gas tax from 16.75 cents per gallon to 22.25 cents per gallon – a 32.8 percent jump. This recommendation has been enthusiastically endorsed by Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary “Buck” Limehouse, who was appointed to his position by S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford as part of a so-called “restructuring” of this troubled agency (looks like the reforms “didn’t take”).

South Carolina’s gas tax hasn’t increased since 1987 and is currently the fourth-lowest in America … which means it’s one of the Palmetto state’s few competitive advantages. Or at least it would be a competitive advantage … unfortunately, despite being one of the nation’s smallest states (both geographically and with respect to our population), South Carolina has the nation’s fourth-largest system of state-maintained roads.

Yup … even in building and maintaining roads our government cannot restrain its appetite, which leads to crappy maintenance and more fatalities.

Look, if roads and bridges are a core function of government (and we would argue that they are), then government should find a way to fund them … and do so efficiently. After all, last year’s budget was the largest in the history of the state – just like the two budgets before it. That means there’s no excuse for any core function being neglected.

Just as they did with the cigarette tax hike, our “Republican” lawmakers are once again passing the cost of their failure to prioritize spending and enact real reforms onto the shoulders of the state’s taxpayers … only this time everybody is going to wind up paying.