SCDOT: “Hey, Who’s Up For Raising Gas Taxes So We Can Keep Wasting Money?”

Yet again we see a professional bureaucrat, unaware of the Laffer Curve, deciding that you and should pay more so that he can continue throwing money at his cronies. This time it’s Department of Transportation Secretary Buck Limestone who, faced with the same recession related drop in funds all Americans are dealing with, has a not so novel suggestion – raise taxes on fuel:

COLUMBIA — A tax increase at the gas pump for the first time in more than two decades could hit drivers next year.

Lawmakers will consider a recommendation when they return in January to raise the gasoline tax by 5.5 cents, from 16.75 cents to 22.25 cents a gallon, along with a financial doom-and-gloom message from state Department of Transportation Secretary Buck Limehouse.

Limehouse told lawmakers in a letter he sent Monday that funding is the agency’s biggest challenge. The state gasoline tax pays for road improvements and construction, safety upgrades as well as bridge replacement. That cash is used to pull down federal highway dollars.

The state rate hasn’t been increased since 1987 and is the fourth-lowest in the nation.

The Tax Realignment Commission, a panel of financial experts appointed to study the way the state taxes residents, recommended that the Legislature raise the gas tax as part of a trade-off to lower the overall sales tax rate. The panel recommended the rate fall after a year to 21.75 cents.

Limehouse’s comments came as an update to his annual “State of the SCDOT” report that provides the agency’s latest operational and financial standing. He said the next step is in legislators’ hands: increasing the gas tax is up to them.

“We’re going to have get adequate funding from somewhere,” he said.

Right. The suggested increase is supposedly being proposed to off set an income tax decrease but good ‘ol Buck must be smoking some serious Keynesian wacky weed to think a tax on resources is going to create revenue. Let me see if I can explain to supporters of this why this is a monumentally bad idea.

Gasoline is a resource that is necessary for many of the small businesses we rely on, who will either pass the increased cost along to us or will reach a financial breaking point and move on. The small farmers, contractors, couriers and even the delivery driver from Dominos all survive on what is actually a pretty thin profit margin. As do many part time workers who can only get to work using a car. In conjunction with gas prices going up as a result of Peak Oil and the loss of oil rigs to other countries following the Obama administration’s drilling moratorium these taxes will break many small businesses, especially when you’re talking about delivery heavy industries.

Gas is already being predicted to hit $5/gallon just because of market forces, another five cents a gallon may not seem like much to some bureaucrat, but when you’re delivering your fresh produce to several locations and have a 5-6 trucks filling up a couple of times a day it adds up.

People will alter their behavior to avoid paying taxes, which should be a given in a state that has a population boom caused by north-easterners fleeing high tax states for the Palmetto State . As gas inevitably gets more expensive increasing taxes on it becomes self-defeating because the higher the price of gas the less driving people will do. Those who can’t limit driving will cut expenses in other areas, like entertainment and shopping, to make up the difference. South Carolina will lose economic activity by making people decide between more expensive gas and a expenditures somewhere else.

And what exactly is the payoff here? One need not be an efficiency expert to see that the SCDOT could make due with less money if they did what all Americans are doing now and tightened their belts. The SCDOT benefits package is generous to the point of madness, especially as America circles the drain economically. I dare say there is some fat to be trimmed there.

But look at the self reported expenditures of the SCDOT and you’ll find an organization rife with waste. For example SCDOT spends $191,247,115 for Personal Services which includes a $139, 864 salary for the Executive Director (in a state whee the median income is $39,316) and $4,461,036 in overtime. Another $953,338 was paid out to Per Diem workers. Do you think maybe some pay cuts or lay-offs could be considered before recommending a tax?

The average wage for a SCDOT civil engineer is nearly $70,000. When you count the generous benefits they probably make closer to $90,000. There was a time when people took civil servant jobs for the security knowing they would make less money than the private sector, not they take them so that they can milk the private sector dry and demand more. And when they don’t get it they embezzle it, as we saw in a case from Florence a couple of months ago. Maybe they should get less benefits when there’s a recession?

Americans are being forced to live within their means and it is time the government agencies who work for us start doing the same. before trying to squeeze more money from people already hurt by the recession, why not try sharing in the sacrifice they keep calling on us to make.

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