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Day Of Decision Approaching On SC Gas Tax

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KEY VOTE LOOMING IN STATE SENATE …

Make no mistake: There is only one vote to watch in the South Carolina Senate when it comes to a totally unnecessary five-year, $1.8 billion tax hike.

And it’s coming sooner than you might think …

This proposed levy – which would add an indefinite $800 million-a-year tax hike to its initial increases – is being pushed (perhaps illegally) by powerful S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman.  In fact, Leatherman has vowed that “his” chamber won’t adjourn next week until it has advanced this massive new levy.

Standing in Leatherman’s way?  Taxpayers’ “Stonewall,” S.C. Senator Tom Davis.

For two years’ running, Davis – with the help of several fiscally conservative State Senators – has successfully filibustered similar proposed tax increases.  And he’s vowed to filibuster this year’s proposed tax hike, H. 3516.

His basic argument?  That lawmakers are trying to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into a demonstrably flawed, inherently corrupt system that prioritizes projects based on political pressure – not public need.

Is he correct?  Damn right he is.  GOP lawmakers have more than doubled the scandal-scarred S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT)’s base budget over the last seven years.  On top of that, they’ve approved hundreds of millions of dollars in new (and likely unconstitutional) borrowing for transportation projects.

Has this mountain of money “fixed our roads?”

No.  Not even close.  Things are arguably worse than ever – and lawmakers have utterly failed to rein in rampant corruption and incompetence at the agency.

Davis has also pointed out (correctly) that the current bill – in addition to providing no structural reform – includes no offsetting tax relief.  It’s a pure money grab, in other words, one that stands to directly benefit self-dealing politicians like Leatherman.

“We have a third-world, political-spoils system of road spending that is, by design, controlled by a handful of legislators,” Davis told us.  “That’s why, despite funding increases, our roads remain in substandard condition, and it’s why focusing on the revenue side of the equation will never be the answer.”

(Click to view)

(Via SenatorTomDavis.com)

Who loses in this equation?  Dirt poor South Carolina motorists – who already pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income on fuel costs.

Accordingly, this website has consistently opposed such levies – and supported limited government lawmakers like Davis who are willing to stand against them.  We need more lawmakers like him – in the Senate and the increasingly left-leaning S.C. House.

In the coming days, State Senators will have one chance – and one chance only – to stand with taxpayers on this critical issue.  There is one vote – and one vote only – that will determine whether they support the tax-and-spend status quo or a long-overdue reprioritization of the billions in new money that taxpayers keep shipping to Columbia, S.C.

With Davis vowing to oppose the gas tax increase on the floor of the Senate for the third consecutive year, lawmakers must vote to “sit him down” before they can pass the legislation.  Procedurally, that’s called a “cloture” vote – and it requires twenty-four Senators to support it on the “second reading” of a bill and twenty-six Senators (or three-fifths of those present and voting) to support it on a bill’s third and final reading.

Obviously Leatherman and all eighteen Senate Democrats will vote to sit Davis down – which ordinarily means they would need to pick up seven “Republicans” in order to ram the tax hike through.

Do they have those votes?  It looks like it’s going to be close …

Davis lost an ally earlier this year when fiscally conservative State Senator Kevin Bryant “ascended” to the lieutenant governor’s office earlier during a dubious constitutional succession.  Bryant’s seat has yet to be filled.  Meanwhile S.C. Senator John Courson – who typically votes with fiscally liberal “Republicans” – is suspended from office pending the outcome of criminal charges filed against him in connection with the ongoing #ProbeGate investigation.

That leaves forty-four Senators with one of three options …

1) Voting Against Cloture – This is a vote to continue the filibuster and prevent the gas tax hike from passing.

2) Voting for Cloture – This is a vote to end the filibuster and allow the gas tax hike to proceed.

3) “Taking a Walk” – This is when a lawmaker intentionally leaves the chamber (or is absent) in an effort to make it easier 

The only pro-taxpayer vote is “Option 1.”  Any Senator who chooses either the second or third options is effectively voting for a $1.8 billion tax hike over the next five years (and an $800 million annual tax hike every year thereafter).

Whatever the odds against him, Davis has made it clear he has no intention of sitting down voluntarily – insisting on offsetting tax relief as well as long-overdue reform to SCDOT and the elimination of the corrupt S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB).

“Unless and until true accountability is brought to expenditures, our roads will never be in the condition you have the right to expect,” he said.  “That means abolishing the SCDOT and the STIB and vesting their powers in a cabinet-level Secretary of Transportation, appointed by and directly accountable to the governor.  This is supported by organizations on the right, center and left; moreover, in private, most legislators acknowledge it’s the right thing to do, even as fear of political retribution leads them in public to support the status quo.”

Let’s hope and pray he’s got the votes …

Banner via iStock

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