Tom Davis: Guiding Principles On SC Gas Tax Debate

“YES OUR ROADS AND BRIDGES ARE IN BAD CONDITION – BUT THAT’S NOT BECAUSE OF UNDERFUNDING” || By TOM DAVIS ||  Many of you have asked why I attended the Senate GOP Caucus’ press conference last week if I did not support the roads plan it presented.  I did so…


|| By TOM DAVIS ||  Many of you have asked why I attended the Senate GOP Caucus’ press conference last week if I did not support the roads plan it presented.  I did so because the massive tax-hike bills previously passed by the House and Senate Finance Committees were moving forward very quickly, with all of the major lobbying groups and the mainstream media outlets in full support.  For that reason, I believed it was critical that the public-policy conversation somehow be changed from simply “increase our taxes to fix our roads” to one that focused on greater and better use of existing General Fund revenues and on structural reform to the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT).

The state Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) projects that General Fund revenues will increase at an average rate of $355 million annually over the next ten years, and the Senate GOP Caucus’ plan uses that projected growth to “fund” a cut in the state income tax that returns about $700 million to South Carolina taxpayers over the first five years.  The plan also provides for an increase in the gas tax and other fees – specifically dedicated to roads – that raises approximately that same amount.  This is, of course, a simplified summary, but it gets to the point of the plan.

I do not believe this “lower income taxes in exchange for higher gas taxes” plan is the right approach, and my objections to this and other aspects of the Senate GOP Caucus plan are set forth below.  That said, however, the press conference held by the Senate GOP Caucus has unquestionably had the desired effect of changing the political conversation away from a massive tax increase to one that focuses on how to best use the projected growth in existing General Fund revenues.  Prior to that press conference, no serious consideration was being given to any proposal other than a straight-up tax increase.  Sen. Harvey Peeler, the Senate GOP Caucus Leader, deserves tremendous credit for putting last week’s press conference together and fundamentally redirecting the debate.

Here is where I stand, and why: First, I reject the premise that our state does not appropriate sufficient funds for our transportation needs.  It does; the money just isn’t wisely spent.  Total annual spending in South Carolina on roads and bridges in 2009 (the first year I served in the State Senate) was $1.051 billion, whereas the budget passed by the State Senate last week for the upcoming fiscal year appropriates $1.627 billion – an increase of 54.8 percent.  Yes, our roads and bridges are in bad condition, but that’s not because of underfunding; it’s because decisions on how to spend the appropriated money are being made by a politically motivated and legislatively controlled state agency.

Even if one concedes more money should be spent on roads and bridges, it does not then follow that taxes must be raised.  Last week, the State Senate passed a budget that appropriated an additional $69 million in recurring revenue toward roads and bridges, and that was on top of the $50 million increase in recurring revenue appropriated in 2013.  Additionally, in the so-called “supplemental section” of that budget (which appropriates money collected by the state during the fiscal year that wasn’t certified at the time the budget was passed) the State Senate dedicated all revenues in excess of the first $27.6 million collected to funding local government C-fund resurfacing projects (instead of doling it out to a laundry list of pet projects as usual).  If prior year supplemental revenues are any guide, and everything we are hearing from the BEA says they are, then that’s at least another new $100 million going toward roads and bridges in this year’s budget.  Here are the BEA projections in General Fund revenue growth – that is, new recurring funds – over the next ten years (rounded to the nearest million):

FY 16-17 $337 million
FY 17-18 $278 million
FY 18-19 $341 million
FY 19-20 $303 million
FY 20-21 $374 million
FY 21-22 $330 million
FY 22-23 $410 million
FY 23-24 $340 million
FY 24-25 $450 million
FY 25-26 $392 million

The average amount of recurring annual growth over this ten-year period is $355 million.  If 30 percent of this annual growth – or about $100 million a year – were dedicated to roads and bridges, then after seven years there’d be enough new recurring revenue to satisfy even the high-end estimates of our transportation needs.  That’s not simply wishful thinking that has no political chance of ever happening; just look at what the State Senate did in this year’s budget!


I believe dedicating a portion of the General Fund’s revenue growth over a series of years is a better plan than the tax-swap proposed by the Senate GOP Caucus.  Yes, there are similarities in that both take into account the projected growth in General Fund revenues over time, with my proposal using a portion of the growth to fund roads and bridges and the caucus plan using it to “fund” the income tax cut.  My primary concern about tax-swaps is that the legislature, in future sessions, would allow the tax increase to occur but suspend the tax cut.  I realize the Senate GOP Caucus plan is for the tax increases and cuts to travel in tandem, with a suspension in one resulting in the automatic suspension of the other, but my concerns remain.  It’s much simpler and cleaner, not to mention safer for the taxpayers, to fund roads and bridges out of the growth in existing revenues, rather than engage in a more complicated tax-swap.

Another way I think the Senate GOP Caucus proposal falls short is in regard to restructuring the SCDOT.  To its credit, the caucus plan has the governor appointing all of the SCDOT commissioners, and this helps put accountability for expenditure decisions where it belongs – with the governor.  However, the commissioners selected by the governor in the caucus plan have to meet with the approval of the legislatively controlled Joint Transportation Review Committee (JTRC).  The JTRC approval should be deleted from the plan; better yet, the commission should be abolished entirely, and expenditure decisions should be made by a cabinet-level Secretary of Transportation, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

It is also important, I believe, for any roads plan passed by the legislature to involve the state devolving control over some roads to local governments.  According to research published by the South Carolina Policy Council (SCPC), there are approximately 65,800 miles of roads in South Carolina, with 63 percent of them being controlled by the state.  By way of comparison, the average state DOT controls only 19 percent of roads in other states.  Road miles should be transferred by the state to local governments along with an appropriate share of gas tax revenue.  The SCPC summarized the benefits of this as follows: “Local governments would have better knowledge than a centralized entity of local road conditions.  Further, local governments’ proximity and accountability to the citizens who use the roads in their borders would provide them an incentive not to neglect rural or residential roads that currently receive little attention from DOT. Currently they can simply blame the state – with some justification.  Road devolution would take away that excuse.”

These are my thoughts on how to best maintain our state’s roads and bridges and on the plans being considered.  The State Senate will probably start debating the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee (a straight-up tax/fee increase of $700 million annually) next week, and will likely continue debating it through the end of the current session – 5 p.m. on June 4th.  Things will be moving very fast at the State House over the final three weeks of session, and my decisions along the way will be guided by the principles and concepts discussed above.  I welcome and encourage your thoughts, comments, and criticisms on this issue of vital importance to our state, so please let me know what you think.

Tom Davis represents Beaufort County in the South Carolina Senate.

Related posts


Roaches And Rats: Midlands, South Carolina Restaurants Battling Pests

Dylan Nolan

Upstate South Carolina Police Investigating Animal Cruelty Allegation

Will Folks

North Charleston Councilman Accuses Cop Of Falsifying Police Report

Will Folks


tomstickler May 16, 2015 at 8:14 am

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the day dimbulb SC voters realize that “tax swap” is the preferred method to enrich the rich and impoverish the rest of us.

GrandTango May 16, 2015 at 9:05 am

Yeah: Everybody’s stupid..and you, Boz and FITS are geniuses…who are the only ones who know how to do anything right…

That’s why FITS is being sued for libel and slander…Dumb@$$…

While it would be more difficult to prosecute you, because, your statements are ignorant in general, not specific toward those you hate…you are just as disgusting and immoral as FITS…

You offer nothing but HATE, failure…and ignorance…therefore you are a Democrat…

jimlewisowb May 16, 2015 at 4:53 pm Reply
GrandTango May 16, 2015 at 5:14 pm

You are so frustrated that I call you out for who, and what, you are…I would not click on anything you present , because I don’t trust you to not be spreading a virus.

Very few of you answer for yourselves, to honest characterizations. You mostly just attack, with irrelevant would-be insults. You’ve have been defeated via Obama’s collapse and the Bingham legal action against you.

And a liberal is even more dangerous when you realize your gods and your myths have failed you, as I told you they would.

Old White Bugger May 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Damn, you don’t know shit about computers other than the symbols, Dumb@$$! LMAO!

squirrels in DEM trees May 16, 2015 at 6:42 pm

I told you ‘Garbage’ was ‘SYNTwist’…all posts DELETED.Careful with ‘her’.Some kind of ‘plant’ via ‘speedo #2’…FBI/SLED? No idea.

Driveway Man May 16, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Look out of your window tonight around 10:30.

sand man May 16, 2015 at 7:15 pm

I will. At the beach and it is beautiful.I thought that was you last night…with the crack pipe and 40 ouncer of English Leather.

Did you get any of the pizza crust we thru over the balcony?

GrandTango May 16, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Thanks for the heads up.

Computer Crimes Division May 17, 2015 at 10:09 am

Tap trace in progress.

fc May 16, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Hey JIm…tell us that post office story again…the one in which Fits wrote an article about a disgruntled customer and his mailbox…and low and behold you just happened to be in the damn IRMO p.o. when this nut came rolling in and went ‘postal’…

You libs lie so much you can’t even keep up with em….lol :)

jimlewisowb May 16, 2015 at 10:25 pm

Fits did not write the story
Letter/email about incident was sent to Fits and he posted contents
It was Chapin Post Office not Irmo Post Office
The customer did not go postal, no guns, no shots fired
I have voted Republican in the general election for the past 12 years except Haley’s second term, did vote for Haleyt first time around
Incident did not happen in a vacuum, I was one of several individuals who happened to be present and I also happen to comment on this blog – Gibbs may not believe in coincidences but I do
Bottom line – fuck you and fuck the horse you fuck

fc May 16, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Fits didn’t post about this? LIE #1
“I have voted Republican in general election for past 12 years”? LIE #2 (you have posted prior you have voted for democrats and your campaign donation to Tom Ervin proves that, in my opinion).
“I also just happen to comment on this blog” LIE #3


jimlewisowb May 16, 2015 at 11:17 pm


Kev May 16, 2015 at 10:13 am

GrandTango acts as though his stupidity is a virtue. Who is paying him and how much?

KeshiaJWray May 17, 2015 at 6:31 am

???????$77 /hr 0n the computer@me22//



Twirls May 17, 2015 at 10:07 am


FastEddy23 May 16, 2015 at 11:20 am

A good liberal democrat approach … And I agree.

In this case the only “rich” benefiting are the state house taxsuckers.

fc May 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

I just LOVE more and more taxes! Please, take my money!

fc May 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

You are the only Ohio State graduate (?) I know that is a begger and poor.

FastEddy23 May 16, 2015 at 9:44 pm

“Tax swamp” more likely.

Scrappy May 16, 2015 at 9:24 am

Good points Tom! I just can’t get over your support for Toal. It defied logic in your quest to “walk the walk”.

Lobeco May 16, 2015 at 10:17 am

I agree. He is really a Democrat and with the vote for Toal, he showed his true colors. This post is just a bunch of the same ole Tom Davis crap.

CNSYD May 16, 2015 at 11:41 am


Birthers For Cruz May 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I want my country back!

Arrogant Rednecks May 16, 2015 at 1:18 pm

God I hate that statement, as if some inbred hicks have the deed to all 50 states.

SCBlues May 16, 2015 at 9:28 pm

“God I hate that statement, as if some inbred hicks have the deed to all 50 states.”
Well, they do this one.

-0^0- May 16, 2015 at 10:10 am

The planned I-526 Boondoggle was one of the reasons road/highway maintenance went to shit. Dig deep back into this and let these scums be persecuted by the public. Spare no one and take no prisoners. The public most certainly wants lots of heads to roll. And in time, they will. They have pissed off the public for the last time this go around. The FBI is going to bust them. 10, 20, and 30 year sentences are a possibility.

CNSYD May 16, 2015 at 11:43 am

You need to put down the crack pipe. Ain’t gonna happen.

Native Ink May 16, 2015 at 9:42 pm

You’re the one who mocked people for calling Johns Island a sea island, so what do you know about anything?

CNSYD May 17, 2015 at 9:50 am

What part of the word sea do you not understand? Folly-yes, James-no, Kiawah-yes, Johns-no, Seabrook-yes, Wadmalaw-no.

Native Ink May 17, 2015 at 8:57 pm

You are officially clueless about the Lowcountry.

CNSYD May 18, 2015 at 9:22 am

So explain it to me oh learned one. I suppose Drum Island is a “sea” island.

Native Ink May 18, 2015 at 9:30 am

Spend a few years here and maybe you’ll understand basic words we use to describe our area. Until then, don’t presume to tell us we need to build unneeded highways to destroy our landscape.

CNSYD May 19, 2015 at 9:37 am

Is 60+ enough?

Victorious Secret May 16, 2015 at 11:49 am

“10, 20, and 30 year sentences are a possibility.”

Um, no. Have you not seen our typical response to corrupt behavior? I predict some plea deal, followed by a resignation, and possibly some minor period of time on probation.

FastEddy23 May 16, 2015 at 10:00 pm

… But it may take 10, 20 or 30 years to untangle that tax code knot. Even if Those Fools get the slammer and time off fur “good” behavior, They would still have to deal with Their screw-ups.

Torch May 16, 2015 at 10:10 am

Well, except for the part about letting Nikki appoint everyone, it sounds logical. She’s failed at most of her other appointments so why would this one be any different?

YallCalmDown May 16, 2015 at 10:47 am

Maybe they can hold off on that part of the plan until she’s out of office.

Mike at the Beach May 16, 2015 at 11:18 am

It’s not really about Haley; it’s about executive control/accountability versus our current goofy legislature-managed state of affairs…

Victorious Secret May 16, 2015 at 11:46 am


FastEddy23 May 17, 2015 at 1:11 am

If you all only had a recall vote …

FastEddy23 May 16, 2015 at 11:18 am

I can’t believe any of you folks would go along with adding more complications to your tax codes.

Why are your poli-wogs even doing this? Why even have a discussion to chose one more complicated tax structure over another even more complicated one?

Those of you who may have noticed before, when your local g’ment seeks to “rebalance” complicated law and rules, the only winners are g’ment … The taxpayers always lose.

Split it up. Vote an income tax reduction up or down, period. Then if that works consider raising the fuel tax … Or the reverse …

The operative word is simplify. Otherwise, creeping meat-ball-ism will win and everybody losses.

SCBlues May 16, 2015 at 9:27 pm

“The operative word is simplify”
We are simpletons here Eddy – it is all very simple – see my post above for more detail. We love that big “R” here in SC. And if we get any simpler we’ll have to go ahead and start calling ourselves Simple Carolina – oh excuse me, I meant Simple CaRolina. Complain all you want about that awful Taxifornia where you live but at least the majority of your elected officials are not the product of in-breeding. And we don’t do any “meat-ball-ism” down here anyway, Eddy. We do “meat-loaf”. It is that simple. Do I need to simplify this any further?

FastEddy23 May 17, 2015 at 1:19 am

You won’t find me pulling the big [R] lever …. Unless and until the [R] person in question is talking tax cuts and more tax cuts.

Yes, I am a Tax Zealot. But you all see by now, the more money you give Them, the more They want, Everytime.

The single reason that South Carolina taxpayers pay less per capita than any other state? Because They have been screwing you for so long you all are pretty near bankrupt.

FastEddy23 May 16, 2015 at 11:29 am

One thing for sure. If South Carolina wants more private sector business, more jobs, more help for the poor, complicating the tax codes will Not Work! … That never has and it never will.

SCBlues May 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm

There is nothing complicated in SC about the tax code – or anything else for that matter. We elect anyone that puts an “R” after their name on the ballot. Hell, sometimes we’ll just go ahead and vote for someone if they have an “R” anywhere in their name. The R’s could rape and plunder the entire state – which they’ve basically been doing for years – and we’ll still continue to vote for them. We screech and whine and moan about the potholes in the roads – yet continue to elect the once who dug the potholes. It ain’t that complicated Eddy.

FastEddy23 May 20, 2015 at 12:10 pm

“… We screech and whine and moan about the potholes in the roads – yet continue to elect the [same ones] who dug the potholes. …”

That’s another thing I don’t get.

Does South Carolina put out to competitive bidding “general maintenance and pot hole repair”? … What? Not?

euwe max May 16, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I do not believe this “lower income taxes in exchange for higher gas taxes” plan is the right approach

why not? You’ll have the choice *not* to pay the gas tax – don’t buy gas!

GrandTango May 16, 2015 at 2:32 pm

I do not believe….

And leave it at that. After that…what else matters?

Old White Bugger May 16, 2015 at 5:20 pm

You getting some ass, a job, and a 12 step?

shifty henry May 18, 2015 at 10:32 am

He wants to go to Paranoid Anonymous meetings but they won’t tell him where and when they meet…..

Bible Thumper May 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

FY 16-17 $337 million
FY 17-18 $278 million
FY 18-19 $341 million
FY 19-20 $303 million
FY 20-21 $374 million
FY 21-22 $330 million
FY 22-23 $410 million
FY 23-24 $340 million
FY 24-25 $450 million
FY 25-26 $392 million

Yeah! I believe those predictions.

FastEddy23 May 17, 2015 at 1:10 am

Wow! Smoke AND mirrors!

FastEddy23 May 16, 2015 at 9:53 pm

All too often the working folks do not have that choice.

euwe max May 17, 2015 at 1:52 am

Blasphemy! The free market gives you the choice. The market will adjust by eliminating working folks.

Todd May 16, 2015 at 7:29 pm

It seems like it should be a pretty simple metric to devise. Road maintenance funds should be distributed to counties based on the existing paved surface area. New roads and widenings should be considered capital improvements and distributed based on provable traffic throughput and economic impact.
As it stands we spend 1.2 billion in Mt Pleasant to please yankee carpet baggers who want their real estate to appreciate.

Gene May 16, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Hey. Watch the carpetbagger reference when responding to a Tom Davis crapola statement.

Native Ink May 16, 2015 at 9:31 pm

A lockbox for future highway repairs funded from revenue increases. Sounds like a better idea than a tax hike. We need to reform the Infrastructure Bank too or they will tear through that funding as soon as a connected politician wants a bridge to nowhere built in his district.

FastEddy23 May 17, 2015 at 1:06 am

Those “lock boxes” don’t work any more. Out here in Taxifornia the “close to bankrupt” cities have had to unlock the boxes in order to cover g’ment union pension “obligations”.

… Then of course the cities have to raise taxes to fill the “lock boxes” back up. … Until the next time.

idiotwind May 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

why not just cut the income tax and forget the gas tax? every conservative knows lower taxes result in higher revenue. is tom davis calling ronald reagan a liar?

ELCID May 18, 2015 at 2:06 pm

To not even look at other ways to fund this $750 million Bond Bill is a complete disregard of the Legislature’s Fiduciary responsibilities to safe guard the public’s money.

All of this could easily be funded without raising gas taxes or any taxes at all.

SC could sell or take public Santee Cooper for upwards of $10++ Billion dollars CASH!

It would have no effect on the State, Santee’s Customers, existing CO-OP contracts, existing pensions, and most of the jobs would be safe. It would make Billions of dollars of equipment taxable and solve the low funding of Education on I-95 without raising a single tax payer dollar.

Why this is not being done is absolutely inexcusable and an Outrageous abuse of the Public Trust!!


Leave a Comment