Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taxing South Carolina

I hate to say it, but while the poor continue to be underpaid, underfed and uninsured, the pressing problem in our state this year seems to be our terrible awful roads.  In fact, the problem is so bad that even businesses are pushing for a tax that would pay to solve the problem.  The problem is so bad that even republicans are working toward fixing this mess.

On the other hand, our governor, "Let-them-eat-cake" Haley, would like to use the opportunity of increasing a sales tax to, you guessed it, cut the state's income tax.  Because why would we ever want South Carolina to take a step forward without taking a couple steps back?

Each election season, we are asked to increase the sales tax to improve schools, libraries, and pretty much any service that the public overwhelming wants to see improved.  What this does for Tea Party greed-heads like Haley is make everybody pay regardless of income.  A loaf of bread, clothes for school, a car repair, we all have to throw that money into the pot, so the wealthy among us don't have to feel put upon.

While this is also true of the gas tax, there are a couple of differences.  First of all, the cost of gas today is so unbelievably low that I think most of us feel the urge to drive in and buy gas even when our tanks are full, rather than pass up such a bargain.  Adding a sales tax right now is about as painless as it can get.  Secondly, with the price of gas so low, it is inevitable that there will soon be an increase of those big gas guzzlers that we love so much.  Although some of us realize that the price of gas will indeed rise again at some point, others prefer to take the opportunity to indulge in their fantasy of the return to the day of the road-hog.  So for those who are intent on living by the philosophy of "Damn the torpedoes -- full speed ahead!" the gas tax hike is the least they can contribute to the wear and tear on roads and environment.

You may have been wondering why the price of gas is so-freaking-low.  No, it's not because of the fracking and the oil pipelines, or the offshore drilling that have all been touted as totally safe and the means to our freedom from terrorist states.  All these processes are costly, not just to the environment, but take more financial investment than traditional drilling and coal-mining.  It's only worth the investment if the price of gas is sky-high.

Enter OPEC.  With far more easily accessible fuel, and lots of it, they can let the oil gush until the price is so low they can undercut American oil enterprise.  Texas, prepare for another round of bust-years.  We sure don't know how this will play out, other than investors won't be paying more for less, and the Saudis are pretty much in control.

All we can do, and really, the best thing we can do, is use this time to really invest in better ways.  This is actually a golden opportunity, and not just for a gas tax to rebuild roads.  This is a time to use the windfall to build alternative energy sources and to bring our mass transit into the 21st century.  We can do it because of the opportunity OPEC has given us; we can create jobs and innovate.  We can really strengthen the middle class with good jobs that will help us build the future.

Or we can go out and buy that Hummer and vote for that pipeline.

Back here in South Carolina, in the Statehouse, Representative Whipper has introduced H 3445, "Gas User Fee," which proposes to raise the gas tax by seven cents a gallon.  Cynic that I am, I read the bill a few times and didn't see anything that looked like cutting a tax elsewhere.  It does not address mass transit, which is something we really need to promote, loudly.  But it is certainly the beginning.  Yesterday I emailed Rep. Whipper to let him know I supported this bill, and I also emailed my representative with the same message, and added that the taxes raised should also be used for mass transit.

You can also send emails to your representatives, by going to  There you can find your representative and click on the link to send an email.  It takes but a minute.  Let them know that we support raising the gas tax, and that this is the time to not just rebuild our roads, but to create a mass transit system that we can be proud of.

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