updated January 30
It’s easy to be torn over Gov. Nikki Haley’s roads funding plan. It phases in tax cuts over 10 years, but raises the 16.75 cents-per-gallon gas tax by 10 cents over three years.
After all, an estimated 46 percent of South Carolinians won’t reap the benefits from an income tax reduction of two percentage points across all brackets.
On the other hand, if Haley’s plan materializes, my family would likely begin seeing the benefits within the first three years under our current taxable income level.
Democrats fret the tax breaks will be funded on the backs of the poorest residents who drive.
They also point out the projected revenue is a mere dent in the $1.4 billion per year that the Transportation Department says it needs for the state’s approximately 41,000 miles of roads. Haley’s plan would only reap an estimated $3.5 billion in its first decade after implementation.
Agency director, Janet Oakley joined Haley at a news conference Wednesday in support of the plan, saying many of SCDOT’s wish list items account for the projected discrepancy. The plan would bring the state’s most heavily traveled roads and bridges to the point of repair and maintenance, she said.
Also opposing the plan are libertarian-leaning activists who are confident that lawmakers will hike up the gas tax. But they’re skeptical taxpayers will ever see Haley’s proposed cuts.
After all, Haley vowed not to raise the gas tax prior to her State of the State address last week. “I will veto any bill that reaches my desk that raises taxes on gasoline,” said Haley in her 2014 address.
But we might learn more from an official in her second and final term than we could when she was seeking re-election. Haley, a Republican, is building her legacy—I doubt she will let herself be famed for an overall tax increase.
The proposal would increase the cost of a gallon of gas. It is a gas tax hike. And I don’t want my family’s gas bill to increase.
What I want is worth more than repaired bridges and paved roads, though I’d like our roads to be drivable. Creating a competitive business environment in South Carolina by slashing the income tax is great, too.
But what I really want is for government to shrink. I’d love to see government shrink by more than $5.5 billion—the estimated net savings to taxpayers over the next decade.
And if this proposal works like Haley says it will—and if we want to reduce the size of government—then perhaps we should hike up our sleeves and push lawmakers to get it done.