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Author Of Gas Tax Hike Defends Leon Stavrinakis

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“NO ONE FIGHTS HARDER FOR CHARLESTON ROADS”

Charleston, S.C. mayoral candidate Leon Stavrinakis voted against a gas tax increase as a Democratic member of the S.C. House of Representatives earlier this year – a vote that’s now being held over his head by a fellow fiscal liberal.

Local businesswoman Ginny Deerin has been wearing Stavrinakis out over the vote … arguing it showed a lack of commitment to addressing the Holy City’s infrastructure issues.  Deerin is running against Stavrinakis on a platform aimed at addressing those issues.

Now the “Republican” author of the gas tax bill – S.C. Rep. Gary Simrill – is weighing in on the issue.

“I want to clarify that there was no funding for completing I-526 or to address Charleston’s flooding problems in this bill,” Simrill said. “Leon made clear to me he could not support a bill that did not help Charleston address its current and future traffic problems and that he planned to amend the bill.”

Stavrinakis did that, although according to Simrill his efforts to change the legislation to allow “Charleston to move forward with 526 and other local needs” was unsuccessful.

Thank God for that … Interstate 526 is the classic transportation boondoggle – exactly the sort of wasteful project that leaves real infrastructure needs unaddressed.  We oppose it every bit as vigorously as we oppose a totally unnecessary gas tax hike on South Carolinians who already pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income on fuel costs.

Nonetheless, according to Simrill “no one fights harder for Charleston roads” than Stavrinakis.

Deerin’s campaign rejected that argument.

“That bill would’ve funded SCDOT and the Infrastructure Bank – which have projects in Charleston,” a spokesman for her campaign said.  “Stavrinakis is the only state representative who lives in Charleston County who voted against the bill – the majority of the Charleston County delegation voted for it.”

We’re not going to argue the point … we will, however, argue whether “Charleston roads” really need fighting for.

Not long ago, a powerful state Senator said lawmakers in Columbia, S.C. had been “force feeding asphalt to the coast, while the Upstate and many rural areas starve.”

He was – and is – absolutely right.

Stavrinakis didn’t oppose a gas tax hike on principle, he opposed it because he didn’t believe the new levy routed enough spending to his own backyard.  And now Deerin is bashing him for it because she wants to perpetuate the fiction that only tax hikes can “fix” our state’s infrastructure issues.

Our view?  A pox on both their houses.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: South Carolina has the money to cover these costs.  And even if it didn’t, it has assets it can sell to raise the money.  And beyond that, let’s not forget it’s increased funding to the S.C. Department of Transportation by more than 80 percent over the last four years alone.

There is simply no excuse for roads and bridges to be in the terrible shape they’re in given that level of investment …

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