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SC Lawmakers Eye Alternatives To Gas Tax




It’s no secret Republican leaders in the S.C. General Assembly will renew their push for an increase in the Palmetto State’s gasoline tax in January.

This effort has failed in each of the last two years (here and here) thanks to the efforts of GOP Senator Tom Davis – who has correctly pointed out that the Palmetto State doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending (and a borrowing) problem.

Oh … it also has a corruption problem, especially at the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT).

Anyway …

This website has been readying itself for yet another impassioned battle over proposed gasoline tax hikes – which we have long maintained are unnecessary and disproportionately harmful to dirt poor South Carolina motorists.

Of course a gas tax hike isn’t the only “revenue enhancement” likely to be on the table during the 2017-2018 session of the S.C. General Assembly.  We’re told the state’s soaring budget – which is fast approaching the $30 billion threshold – could see multiple additions to its incoming balance sheet (especially given the uncertainty surrounding the passage of the gas tax increase).

Lawmakers tell us legislative leaders are hedging their bets in the event Davis and his allies in the State Senate are able to block the measure once again.

“Two years in a row they thought they had it,” one lawmaker who opposes the tax hike told us.  “I don’t think it will surprise anyone to learn they are making other arrangements.”

Among those arrangements?  Exploring another increase in the state’s cigarette tax – which at fifty-seven cents per pack is currently $1.12 below the national average.

In 2010, lawmakers raised this tax from seven cents to fifty-seven cents.

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(Via iStock)

Beyond cigarettes, lawmakers are also reportedly eyeing proposals to impose new fees on municipal and county governments – as well as the state’s government-subsidized colleges and universities.

South Carolina’s government-run K-12 schools – which habitually carry forward billion dollar fund balances – could also be targeted.

“There are a lot of slush funds out there,” one lawmaker told us.  “There’s a lot of juice to be squeezed out of them too.”

Various sales tax exemptions are also being examined – which makes sense considering the Palmetto State exempts more in sales tax each year than it collects.

There’s even talk of doing away with the state’s annual sales tax holiday – which this website has consistently derided as nothing but a gimmick.

Finally, lawmakers tell us they are seriously entertaining what kind of recurring revenue could be generated from the legalization of casino gaming on the coast and the legalization of medical marijuana.

“They’ve got a roads crisis and a pension fund that’s about to implode,” one GOP consultant told us.  “They are panicking.”

And while the gas tax would seem to be the simplest and easiest way to alleviate that panic, liberal Republican leaders have been unable to ram it through.

“There is popular support for it but this support is limited to general elections,” the consultant added “What matters to a Republican majority isn’t who shows up to vote in November it’s who shows up for the Republican primaries in June – and in most of those primaries the gas tax is a killer.”

Also, the last time we checked corrupt legislative leaders – most notably liberal S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman – don’t especially care where the gravy train flows from, so long as it continues to flow into their pockets.

“The Godfather doesn’t care where the money comes from – as long as it comes,” one veteran national politico familiar with Palmetto politics explained.

Indeed …

Stay tuned … as taxpayer advocates, we oppose any unnecessary revenue enhancements (especially with state government continuing to grow by leaps and bounds).  Accordingly, we will do our best to stay on top of these proposals in the coming year … and beyond.

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