Fixing Our Roads: Real Answers, in Plain English

THROWING MORE AND MORE MONEY AT A BROKEN SYSTEM IS HOW WE WOUND UP WITH A DECREPIT ROAD SYSTEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. THE WAY FORWARD IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Over three years ago, our policy analysts began warning that, thanks to South Carolina’s convoluted government structure, road maintenance was being neglected throughout most of the state and lawmakers would soon be pushing for a tax increase to fix the mess.

That has now happened, with many alleged proponents of low taxes now asking for a tax increases to pay for road construction and maintenance. The question of what to do about the state’s deteriorating road system – raise taxes? raise fees? cut spending? restructure the funding system? – has reached a new level of urgency in the State House. Elected officials will soon make the big decisions, and those decisions will have consequences for taxpayers for many years.

We’ve published a number of pieces in the last few months that we think address the most important aspects of this question in plain English. Here are a few of the best.

Why the Gas Tax is a Tax, Not a “Fee”
Words matter, and there is an excellent reason why taxes should be called taxes and fees should be called fees.

The Myth of the Tax Swap
Gov. Haley has proposed “swapping” an increase in the gas tax for a reduction in the income tax. Sounds good, but tax swaps are never about reducing the tax burden, or even keeping it “neutral.” They’re always about hiding tax increases, and this one is no exception.

Haley Road Plan: Higher Taxes, New Debt, Fuzzy Numbers
Gov. Haley’s plan to raise the gas tax and cut income taxes will get us a regressive tax hike, for sure, but believing that South Carolina lawmakers would stick to an income tax cut takes a high level of credulity. Instead of trying to throw more public money at a broken system, lawmakers can implement five reforms that will permanently alter the system in taxpayers’ favor.

Roads: Is Raising Taxes the Only Option?
Many lawmakers answer is “Yes.” But they’re wrong.

Senate Moving Ahead with Fee, Tax Hikes
The South Carolina Senate is considering a bill to raise numerous taxes and fees. Here’s what they are, and why these fee and tax hikes would be both unconstitutional and unwise.

On Roads, S.C. Doesn’t Have a Revenue Problem
The problem isn’t a lack of revenue, we argue, but a problem of governmental structure.

Sketchy Numbers Behind Road Funding Debate
State policymakers allege that the Department of Transportation has a “$43 billion shortfall,” the implication being that lawmakers have to raise taxes and fees in order to make it up. Really? Where’d that number come from? Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a lot of fictional numbers in this debate.

How Federal Funding Has Ruined South Carolina’s Roads
Why do we have a road funding problem to begin with? A major part of the answer is South Carolina’s reliance on federal cash. (See also this op-ed in the Charleston Post and Courier by SCPC’s Shane McNamee.)

Why the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Should Go
We explain how the STIB, as it’s known, funds unnecessary expansion projects in politically influential areas of the state – and why it should be eliminated.

Why S.C. DOT Still Needs Reform – Badly
One of the talking points making its way around the capital is that the Department of Transportation was already reformed in 2007 – why do it again? We explain why the 2007 “reform” didn’t amount to much more than governmental shuffleboard and did nothing to change a system in which a few unaccountable legislators make all the important decisions about which roads get funded and which don’t.

Good & Bad Ideas on Roads
We published this piece late in 2014 to highlight the ideas floating around about how to better fund our transportation system.

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