By Paul Gable
The SC General Assembly turned its attention back to passing a road funding bill this year, but the devil is in the details.
The bill, which began as H. 3579, was set for special order yesterday after a compromise was reached in the SC Senate to move it to priority status for debate.
Much changed since its original version, the bill contains the three elements Gov. Nikki Haley said was needed to avoid a veto – sort of.
The current plan raises the state gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and allows it to be adjusted for inflation in future years. Increases in license and registration fees and raising the sales tax cap on car sales are also included bringing the estimated rise in revenue to approximately $800 million per year.
The bill proposes a decrease of 1% in the state income tax spread over five years. However, the reduction in tax rates would be suspended in any year the projected growth in state revenue is less than 4%.
If the rate is lowered over five years, the estimated tax cut is $700 million.
From 2003-2013, South Carolina’s annual average growth rate was less than 2%, making the possibility of income tax reductions less than certain.
Finally, the bill makes some changes in how the SC Department of Transportation commission is appointed.
While the bill would probably allow for some improvement in funding road maintenance and repairs, it now appears to be more political nonsense than a real effort at fixing the state’s roads.
And there is no guarantee it will even be passed. Debate on the bill must wait until debate on a bill that further restricts abortions in the state is completed.
The SC General Assembly priorities seem to run first to further restricting the choices of its citizens before tackling one of the core functions of government.
And so it goes in Columbia.