In the rough and tumble world of politics, it is easy to troll for votes by pledging not to raise taxes, despite compelling need and a knowledge that a penny saved today will result in dollars spent tomorrow.
South Carolina continues to elect legislators who have signed a no-tax-hike pledge, although, as The Charleston Post and Courier stated in an excellent editorial on November 25, 2012, their numbers have diminished slightly – down one legislator in the House, three less in the Senate.
The pledge hinders the one tax hike that the state continues to ignore at its own peril – an increase in one of the lowest gas taxes in the nation. South Carolina’s tax is 16 cents a gallon and hasn’t been increased in 25 years while the state’s population has tripled and tourism has become one of the Palmetto State’s most important industries.
Why is raising the gas tax so important? Three big reasons.
First, it is a user’s tax. Don’t drive, don’t pay. Use the roads, pay for their upkeep.
Second, the state has a $20 billion backlog for road and bridge maintenance, according to the Post and Courier. Replacement costs more than repair and maintenance.
Third, a higher tax will add millions to state coffers in a state that badly needs to keep its transportation infrastructure in decent shape for commerce, tourists and local commuters.
There will be a price to pay for only thinking of today’s pocketbook; not tomorrow’s costs when increasing potholes, rough pavement, faded street markings, closed bridges and growing congestion require huge financial outlays.
While some think this is good fiscal conservatism, as the Post and Courier correctly pointed out, it is more akin to political expediency than personal philosophy.
South Carolina’s Department of Transportation squeezes every dollar it can to fight the deterioration and has often been cited for the efficient use of the less-than-adequate dollars it currently receives.
It would be a pleasant surprise if the legislature where to think ahead about what is good for the state rather than if their no-tax-hike pledge is good enough for them to get re-elected.