Sarah Nuckles: “No Guts, No Glory”

IT’S TIME FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST GAS TAX HIKES || By SARAH NUCKLES || That famous quote comes from a book by Air Force Major General Major Gen. Frederick C. Blesse – specifically his 1955 fighter tactics manual, No Guts, No Glory.  General Blesse was referring to air-to-air combat,…


nuckles|| By SARAH NUCKLES || That famous quote comes from a book by Air Force Major General Major Gen. Frederick C. Blesse – specifically his 1955 fighter tactics manual, No Guts, No Glory.  General Blesse was referring to air-to-air combat, but I respectfully use his terminology to compare the combat that lawmakers and governors have been in for months with lobbying groups and their affiliated organizations – endeavoring to raise gas taxes to put more money into transportation projects which will line their collective pockets.

These groups have issued exaggerated and alarming statements in ads and press releases designed to create concern among lawmakers and citizens.  They want us to believe “the sky is falling” and that huge amounts of money are needed to fix the problems with our roads and bridges.  These groups and/or their members also make campaign contributions to assist legislators with their voting decisions.

For example, the TRIP report those widely circulated transportation cost projections, and its board of directors in Washington, DC, is made up almost entirely of firms who would directly benefit from an increase in gas taxes.  The other firm widely quoted and heavily lobbying legislators is SCFOR (South Carolina Alliance to Fix our Roads).  This group’s board also consists of members who will make millions of dollars from an increase in the gas tax.

Worse – the very same firms will make their project bids to state and national DOTs as high as they can in order to make the inflated numbers provided to lawmakers come true.  Their attacks have been especially targeted this year, because the oil prices have gone down – temporarily – leaving them room to jump in and take that much-needed savings from the taxpayer, before oil prices rise.

Congress, state legislatures and governors need the guts to stand up and be bold, daring, and honest if they hope to turn back this coordinated and strategic attack. The combat is hand-to-hand, over the airwaves, and throughout mainstream media, and certainly in campaign contributions.  The glory they should seek?  The deep appreciation of the taxpayers and voters who elected them and the improved economy from lower taxes.

Ironically, there is never enough gas tax money for these transportation lobbying groups. Case in point – a recent ad in the Charlotte, N.C. area stated that the Tar Heel State had over 2000 structurally deficient bridges.  One ad showed a school bus loaded with kids on a bridge that was collapsing – an emotional appeal.  Its sponsor: the Chamber of Commerce – an organization that is pushing for higher gas taxes nationwide to benefit its member organizations.

The North Carolina campaign (and the campaigns being waged in many other states) reveals the true intent of the lobbying: To provide an unending stream of multi-million contracts to these firms doing the lobbying.  According to the American Petroleum Institute, the State of North Carolina has almost the HIGHEST gas tax in the Nation – yet that is still not enough to satisfy the voracious clamoring of the consulting engineers and firms that directly benefit from higher gas taxes – to raise the gas tax even more.

Their intensive nationwide lobbying efforts are intimidating and intended to frighten taxpayers and legislators into paying more at the pump.

YES – we do need to maintain our infrastructure which has been neglected for decades, and just about anyone can point to their “favorite” pot-holes.  But, our improved economy is already increasing the existing tax revenue streams to do so, and, there are other ways to put more revenue into roads without increasing gas tax.  Also in South Carolina, a significant portion of the gas tax collected at the pump to maintain secondary roads and structurally deficient bridges goes to pay for projects that provide political benefit and not state-wide infrastructure benefit and maintenance of roads and bridges.

Reducing political influence is the kind of law that should be passed, but it will take guts for the General Assembly and the Governor to establish statewide priorities in ALL categories and ensure the SC Department of Transportation is spending that money in the most cost-efficient, prioritized manner, instead of paying millions of dollars to hire these same influence firms to grossly overstate the cost.

It’s a shame the moment citizens think they have a few extra jingles in their pockets from lower oil prices, our “conservative” elected officials see that as opportunity to increase taxes and dip their hands into our collective pockets, instead of letting the gas savings we have now continue stimulating the economy and increase tax revenues.

South Carolina has surplus revenues – NOW – and expects to have even more in coming years based on projections from the S.C. Bureau of Economic Advisors whose job it is to advise the Legislature and the Governor. That tax surplus from the improved economy should be used to fix our roads – not kicking the driver in the shins for trying to get to work at their new job by increasing the cost of gas, and spending the surplus on something else.

Since when is raising taxes the only solution in a “Republican” state? (I am a lifelong, conservative Republican).  What happened to more efficiency, less government, and improving the economy?  What happened to Ronald Reagan’s smaller government vision?  Just say “no” legislators and governor. NO GUTS, NO GLORY!

And by the way, has anyone noticed there are no Democrats complaining about the gas tax increases proposed by Republicans? And did anyone notice that one Democrat, Bakari Sellers (D) Bamberg, actually proposed reducing the gas tax: “I am in favor of cutting every regressive tax we can find,” Sellers said.

We are certainly in an upside-down political world. NO GUTS, NO GLORY.

Sarah Nuckles is a former member of the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission. During her tenure, she was one of only five government officials in all of South Carolina to be honored by this website as a “Taxpayer Hero.”

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Inquiring Mind March 27, 2015 at 10:11 am

I have assumed that the real cost of updating and maintaining our system is a bit less than the $1.4 Billion commonly thrown around. Nonetheless, I’ve not seen any opponents use a definitive figure. Is it because they don’t have a figure but are satisfied to criticize the proponents?

What is the figure, Mrs. Nuckles? If gas taxes paid by users are not the answer to the revenue question, then what is?

Implicitly she told you March 27, 2015 at 10:19 am

“If gas taxes paid by users are not the answer to the revenue question, then what is?”

She told you implicitly,

“Since when is raising taxes the only solution in a “Republican” state? (I am a lifelong, conservative Republican). What happened to more efficiency, less government, and improving the economy?”

sparklecity March 27, 2015 at 10:34 am

Simple/concise answer:
This is South Carolina

Inquiring Mind March 27, 2015 at 10:40 am

I ask once again, what is the number needed to perform the maintenance and repair? There has to be a number, not simply a method or ideology.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 10:45 am

When you buy a house, do you plan maintenance on said house? Set aside money to make necessary repairs? A new roof isn’t going to last forever, so you know you need to budget for a roof 15-20 years later. You can either set aside money to make those repairs or take out a loan.

Inquiring Mind March 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

I agree with your statement. I just roofed my house. It cost $11,200. Using your method I would start with $11,200 and increase it for inflation in order to arrive at the 20 year replacement figure. I might even adjust the figure some for technological advances.

Once again, what is the highway number? What is the cost? The proponents say $1.4 Billion. Mrs. Nuckles is a former Highway Commissioner. I assume she understands the numbers and knows the budget.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

She probably see the same thing we all do:

I’m sure one of those categories has that number right?

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 11:10 am

… And that big brown part of that SCDOT pork pie? Is that all that the fed fuel taxes bring to the state?

In sparcly populated New Mexico the Feds contributed enough transport / infrastructure to squander on a 100+ mile rail passenger service from Santa Fe to Albuquerque… Total population of both towns is less than 500,000. Round trip fare is less than $10. … Guess how many SC dollars they got that you did not? …

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 10:57 am

But why can’t you build with a fifty year roof in the first place?

Pineapple Twist March 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Costs too much and you are going to have to replace it before the 50 years runs out or it will look like crap. :)

FastEddy23 March 30, 2015 at 1:03 pm

The Golden Gate Bridge, built in 1933, has been well maintained and continues to satisfy the taxpayers, going on 80+ years. It is true that it gets a new coat of paint every other year and there have been some retrofit work done on it …

Of interest, the construction bonds and debt to build that bridge have been paid in full for several decades past. This has not stopped the taxsucking bridge trolls from keeping the ever increasing tolls …

Pineapple Twist March 29, 2015 at 12:56 pm

In the context of government employees, why not build a 50 year roof? They probably aren’t going to live that long, so why worry about it?

FastEddy23 March 30, 2015 at 12:59 pm

This voter still believes that government employees are or should be interested in what is best for their employers = The Taxpayers.

Pineapple Twist March 30, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Why aren’t you on this page:

Would be interesting to read your thoughts….

Implicitly she told you March 27, 2015 at 10:50 am

“I ask once again, what is the number needed to perform the maintenance and repair?”

Actually, that’s not what I quoted, so your response to mine is a bit of a non-sequitur, but I’m going to answer that one too:

There is no “number” because the agency responsible for maintenance and repair seems to be incompetent/unable to provide one.

So going back to my original quote, there is no argument that there should be no “gas taxes paid by users”. That’s a strawman you’ve constructed.

The question is, does the SCDOT have enough to do the job it’s supposed to be doing without require MORE gas taxes. No one knows the answer because the SCDOT can’t even provide a basic breakdown to anyone.

Giles March 27, 2015 at 10:57 am

Nuckles does not have spend 2.2 million tax dollars to “get a plan!’

She does have a decade of experience and that tells her to cut fraud and waste first!

We should maintain the present system first, then build more as needed.

We should not tax the hell out of the working man so that the rich get richer!

Rocky March 27, 2015 at 10:15 am

But, but, only dumb Yankees on I-95 and I-77 would be paying it, since most in the state can’t afford cars anyway. Isn’t that right Grand Mango.

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 4:49 am

I thought that was what all of those gas tax subsidized empty buses were for?

Gov't always needs more money March 27, 2015 at 10:17 am

“What happened to Ronald Reagan’s smaller government vision?”

It was kicked out the door by him, when he expanded government and ran huge deficits after being elected.

In the end, he behaved exactly as every other politician.

““I am in favor of cutting every regressive tax we can find,” Sellers said.”

Seriously, kudos to Sellers for recognizing that taxes hurt people.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 10:18 am

Well stated Ms. Nuckles!

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 4:46 am

The best part? She names some names!

Hats off to that!

Victorious Secret March 27, 2015 at 10:18 am

What really frustrates me is this . . .

How is it that we have come to a place where we must bewilderingly engage in dialogue about “where are we going to find the money to pay for the roads?”

It would seem prudent that–knowing there is a usable shelf life to every product or project–we simply assign replacement costs the minute we initiate or begin a project or produce a project from the very beginning.

Simply put, when we first built said bridges or roads, we should have immediately taken account for the life of the product and, subsequently, began budgeting for its eventual repair or replacement. Surely we didn’t think it would last forever.

Seriously, this is not rocket surgery.

Insanity March 27, 2015 at 10:22 am

Look, you’ve managed to type a lot of stuff without addressing the heart of the issue.

It’s very simple:

What does is cost to maintain the roads? How do we determine that cost? How does it get paid?

Step #1

You have the agency responsible put together an audited accounting/report of what the cost is.

Has that happened? No.

In fact, they are having a hard time doing that.

How many banks or investors would lend someone money that can’t actually account for the money they get?(let alone how they would spend additional funds)

Answer: Zero

Clint March 27, 2015 at 10:54 am

Exactly. Stop the fraud waste and abuse, then discuss the tax!
You cannot do it the other way around.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 10:23 am

Or science. They don’t budget for it, because they can always raise taxes.

Frank March 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

And they love t raise taxes!

Good job Ms. Nuckles.

jimlewisowb March 27, 2015 at 10:29 am

Fatal Assumption

There is some form of Intelligent Life in Charge of State Government both elected and appointed

shifty henry March 27, 2015 at 11:14 am

Sort of like Crazy Math

In an insane asylum, three patients are up for release. The Doctor decides to give them an intelligence test. He turns to the first man and asks, “What is three times three?”

“274,” he replies.

The Doctor asks the second man, “What is three times three?”

“Tuesday,” replies the second man.

The Doctor turns to the third man, “Okay, your turn. What’s three times three?”

“Nine,” says the third man proudly.

“That’s great!” says the doctor. “How did you arrive at that?”

“Simple,” says the third man. “I subtracted 274 from Tuesday.”

Timmy Tebow March 27, 2015 at 10:31 am

VIctorious, when you have an ever-demanding populace, you don’t worry about the future, you pander to the now. “Besides,” the governance says, “in 35 years I’ll be dead. Let the chumps in charge deal with the mess then!”

Victorious Secret March 27, 2015 at 10:43 am

Indeed. Poor management of expectations will always thrive when instant gratification prevails.

Torch March 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

This is something that I’ve always thought. If you build it, you must have the money to maintain it. I never buy more car than I can afford to maintain.

TontoBubbaGoldstein March 27, 2015 at 4:59 pm

This is something that I’ve always thought. If you build it, you must have the money to maintain it. I never buy more car than I can afford to maintain.

Don’t ever buy a boat.

If you insist on ignoring PRO TIP # 1….never let your boat get anywhere near ethanol or salt water.

Torch March 27, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Had a boat. Got rid of it. Put in salt water.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 5:12 pm

DOUBLE BONUS PRO TIP: Get your boat winterized. Otherwise you can bank on major repairs.

shifty henry March 27, 2015 at 5:25 pm

I never buy more car than I can afford to maintain.
True – and I learned in a very hard way that also applies to women!

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 4:35 am

… and bridges.

Manray9 March 27, 2015 at 11:37 am

Do you believe politicians are serious and thoughtful individuals who are truly committed to public service? Those kind of people don’t get elected because they’re not likely to undertake the craven pandering required. South Carolina politicians are ambitious, selfish, narcissistic and short-sighted people who are looking for every opportunity to feather their own nests and move up in the hierarchy of elective office. The problem? The donkeys in this state keep electing and re-elected them so nothing ever changes.

Guest March 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Not just the budgeting issues, but the quality control of what is installed. I drive between Columbia and Aiken almost daily. They have put new asphalt down on Rt 1 from I-20 (exit 22) to Aiken and if someone wants to jump up and down and say that the installation was a great job, they surely must be blind.

In every construction contract, there should be some verbiage about how long the work should last and include a maintenance contract with heavy fines or bonds if maintenance is not maintained. Again – not rocket science.

But if it is the politicians that own these construction companies then the more shoddy the work, the more repeat work they will do. An easy way to fix maintenance is bid a 10 to 20 year contract that included repairs and maintenance throughout the entire life of the contract at a FIXED price and if the vendor goes out of business, you need to make the bonds big enough to fill in the gaps.

Also, planning – when Lexington County tried to pass the recent sales tax for monies for road projects, we saw right through the BS. In a recent article, they continued to talk about the building boom in Lexington and the authorization to build an additional 700 new homes and 350 new apartments – the article noted how proud they were of a new digital signalling technology (something that the SCDOT folks told me was already done). But not one word for road maintenance and the increased costs to the school districts.

But less than a few months ago, they were pleading that we needed new roads and now they are exclaiming joy due to all of these additional residences and DRIVERS. And the only thing that article mentioned was the quick access to the interstate. Nothing about increased infrastructure costs, road maintenance and replacement, etc.

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 4:05 am

That’s sometimes a slippery sloop for g’ment engineers.

Once one has a program of planned obsolescence for big dollar projects, the tendency too often becomes one of the design of infrastructure that will only last “as long as it should”.

When building better bridges is not the goal, but building to deliberately plan on upgrades, repair and planned replacement is, well, the planners and engineers do just that.

Chris Coppenbarger March 27, 2015 at 10:36 am

Same old tired arguments used to push for the Richland Penny tax that we did not need. The only people who actually voted yes on that tax were the people in the Columbia city limits who think they need the failing bus system, but only half of them probably even use it. Those who would have voted no weren’t allowed to because they were given broken machines. Now we have elected officials in the State government not looking at where money is actually being used, but trying to throw more money at the problem instead. If this passes, you’ll pay more at the pump, and you’ll pay more on your driver’s license renewals, and you’ll pay more on your vehicle registrations. If you look at the breakdown of your property taxes and your vehicle taxes, both of those already go toward SC roads. Now, where is that money going? Apparently, it’s not actually being used on roads. Some of that money is being used on education, and yet, they say they don’t have enough money for education. Sure they do, if they stop giving superintendents and coaches six figure salaries. That’s the point, they don’t know where the money is being spent. All they know or think is that apparently there is not enough money. We need to write and call our congressmen (and women) and senators and voice our displeasure at more taxes that we cannot afford.

Mike March 27, 2015 at 10:59 am

a $48 billion dollar income stream for the rich and powerful. We MIGHT get our roads, but they WILL get their money.

Curt fraud waste and abuse. prove it, then come see us about more money!

Jack's pump hand March 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

She didn’t offer one plan to provide dollars to fix the system? Just more “no”

If the gas tax, by law, is the source of revenue for maintaining infrastructure and that source has not changed in 27 years…what do you think happens? It has not even changed for inflation.

I’m all for a plan to works. But so far, one side says – after 27 years, we might want to fix this revenue stream to catch up with the times. And the other just says – no!

What? March 27, 2015 at 11:11 am

How do you know the revenue stream is a problem without a fully broken down accounting of the expenses for maintenance?

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 4:44 am

If the state had just invested in gold when it had surpluses, They could gold plate those bridges today.

Bible Thumper March 27, 2015 at 11:18 am

“But, our improved economy is already increasing the existing tax revenue streams to do so, and, there are other ways to put more revenue into roads without increasing gas tax.”
Sarah Nuckles thinks that additional revenue for roads should come from sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes. The only source of money for road construction and repair should be from road use taxes. Why does she mention North Carolina’s high gas taxes but not mention South Carolina has one of the lowest gas taxes? This article is about South Carolina, right. Using a gas tax to pay for roads insures that tourists and those passing through pay their share of construction and repair.

Any additional state revenue surpluses should go toward tax reduction, not roads.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

And you really think that gas tax hike is going to be spent exclusively on roads?

Bible Thumper March 27, 2015 at 11:26 am

Do you really think that sales, property and income taxes should be used for roads as they are currently?

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 11:27 am

Do you really think they are going to reduce those?

Bible Thumper March 27, 2015 at 11:30 am

Haley said any gas tax increase has to be combined with an income tax reduction or she would veto it. Your level of mistrust of government leaves no alternative but to do nothing.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 11:36 am

IF they would reduce taxes, then it might not be a bad idea, but you are right, I don’t have a lot of confidence in government. Reducing income taxes does nothing for retirees who are living on a fixed income, still buy gas, but is a start.

“The lion’s share of transportation funding should come from user fees (amounts a user pays directly for a service the user receives, such as tolls) and user taxes (amounts a user pays, based on usage, for transportation, such as fuel and motor vehicle license taxes).[2] When road funding comes from a mix of tolls and gasoline taxes, the people that use the roads bear a sizeable portion of the cost. By contrast, funding transportation out of general revenue makes roads “free,” and consequently, overused or congested—often the precise problem transportation spending programs are meant to solve.”

shifty henry March 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

Market Week in Review – It’s been a rocky week for the Stock Market. but there is some cheerful news -Here’s a summary:

Helium was up, feathers were down. Paper was stationary. Ticonderoga Pencils lost a few points. Though Elevators rose, escalators continued their slow decline.

Weights were up in heavy trading. Light switches were off. Mining equipment hit rock bottom. The market for raisins dried up. Pampers remained unchanged.

Caterpillar stock inched up a bit. Sun peaked at midday. Birds Eye Peas Split. Stanley Tools filed for Chapter 11 and Scott Tissues touched a new bottom.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 11:26 am

I had to read that a few times. Nice.

shifty henry March 27, 2015 at 11:48 am

That was added to my collection yesterday…very cleverly done. Also got some good ones about bloggers and commentators.

Rocky March 27, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Call me crazy but these are some nice numbers. If I have an adjusted income of $50K, and I use about 75 gallons a month, my net increase in gas tax is $90 a year. Meantime, my current state income tax is $3,000. Since the proposal is to reduce income tax rates to 5% over 10 years, I’d see my effective rate drop from 6% to 5%, or about $500 a year – nice trade off. $500 – $90 – I net better off $410. Now if I make $35K a year, I’m currently at 5.5% rate, so I get a .5% reduction, and I get a $175 break in taxes, but still have to pay the $90. So now my benefit is $175 – $90 – netting $85. The guy making only $15K more gets a net gain of 2xs what I see. Now let’s say my adjjusted income is $100,000. TOday I pay $7,000, but under Nikki’s plan, I see my rate go from 7% to 5%. I make out great because my net is a savings of $2,000 – $90 – netting $1,910 savings. Well, it would appear this deal would place the largest burden on the poorest in the state. Let’s see how someone in say Bamburg County makes out. My adjusted income (assumed based on per-household median income of $25,000) is about $21,000. I’m already below 5% so I get no reduction in my income taxes. I still pay the $90 in gas taxes. So if I’m poor, living in rurual SC, where I’m already getting screwed – this plan – as I see it – will screw me some more. Like squeezing blood from a stone. So the well off in Lexington and Charleston and Upstate will benefit, the rest wont, and the money will be wasted on a stupid interstate to Meth, I mean Myrtle Beach.

shifty henry March 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm

I’m saving this for future study — thanks!

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 5:17 pm

I know you are likely being funny Shifty.

He does have a valid point, though I have not yet done the math, at a glance looks accurate. I do disagree with where the money might be spent, but that is speculation on both sides (his and mine).

shifty henry March 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Not being funny here — I do keep a folder “Thoughts and Opinions – Posters” where I put serious stuff that I may be interested in and comments like Rocky’s where some sensible effort has been mad and they are more knowledgeable and informed than I am.

Pineapple Twist March 27, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Woah! Never read your serious side.

FastEddy23 March 29, 2015 at 4:39 am

As my Daddy used to say, “It’s all deductible”.

euwe max March 27, 2015 at 12:16 pm

No money for roads until they show us they can build roads without any!

Jazz March 28, 2015 at 8:08 am

What do they use the current gas tax for? Always more,more,more….


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