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SC House Rebukes Senate Version Of Gas Tax Hike

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WILL “ROADS BILL” EVEN MAKE IT TO GOVERNOR’S DESK?

“Republican” leaders in the S.C. House of Representatives are refusing to accept the State Senate’s version of a gas tax hike – setting up a major showdown between the two chambers.

“We will not accept the Senate Bill and want to include our reform measures back in,” one S.C. House leader told us.  “The Senate also added too many fees.”

Hmmmm …

Last time we checked there was precious little reform in either version of this proposed legislation, which is headed back to the S.C. House after State Senators shut down a filibuster attempt by fiscally conservative Senator Tom Davis.

In each of the past two years Davis successfully blocked passage of this tax hike in the Senate – arguing (correctly, we’d like to point out) that taxpayers were already providing state government with more than enough money to perform this core function of government.

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The House passed its own version of a gas tax hike back in March.  That proposal contained $1.8 billion in tax hikes over a five-year period and roughly $600 million in annual tax hikes thereafter.

The Senate version of the bill added another $200 million in annual tax hikes to the existing increases, but “moderate” Republicans added what they claim will amount to $600 million in annual offsetting tax relief.

Do we buy that math?  No.  Not for a second.

The House’s refusal to conform with the Senate tax plan sets the stage for what is called a “conference committee.”  That means the Speaker of the S.C. House – Jay Lucas – designates three lawmakers to represent his chamber in negotiations with three Senators hand-picked by S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman.

Once these six lawmakers hammer out a compromise, both chambers vote on it.

Assuming that happens, the stage would be set for S.C. governor Henry McMaster to make good on his promise to veto the bill.  If that happens, a two-thirds majority of both chambers would be needed to override McMaster’s veto.

According to our sources, the House conferees on this legislation will be GOP majority leader Gary Simrill, ways and means committee chairman Brian White and Democratic leader Todd Rutherford.  It’s not clear yet who will be designated by Leatherman to represent the State Senate.

Our prediction?  Who knows … at this point it’s anybody’s guess what could happen.

The only thing we know for certain is that throwing more money at South Carolina’s corrupt, dysfunctional highway funding apparatus is a recipe for one thing and one thing only: More expensive failure.

As we’ve said on dozens of occasions over the past few years, GOP lawmakers have more than doubled the 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.

Despite this massive investment the Palmetto State’s roads are arguably worse than ever – and lawmakers have failed utterly to rein in corruption and incompetence at the agency.

Banner via iStock

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