Gas Tax Thoughts: Chas. County Senator Sandy Senn

Detailed Thoughts From A Reluctant Supporter

 

Charleston County State Senator Sandy Senn posted these detailed thoughts on her Facebook page.

We find these informative and enlightening.

 

About The Gas Tax

By Sen. Sandy Senn, (R-Charleston)

(Posted on Facebook)

I still can’t call the gas tax a user fee. It is a tax. And the one we are likely to pass is far from perfect especially since any tax stinks. But the roads need fixing, right?

What I don’t like most about this bill is that we raise taxes to repair roads but in the process we give away a bunch of freebies like college tuition breaks. I have two children who would benefit from the college tuition break. But, should other people pay for my children to go to college? NO! That’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. I have learned that all 12Cents of the gas tax will only go only to fix the roads and bridges. But, there are a lot of increased fees on other items such as cars, boats, driver’s licenses etc…The college tuition breaks will be funded by out- of- state people who move here. The entering residents could at one time register their cars here free of charge, but now there will be a $250 tag transfer fee paid It is this fee that will fund the tuition tax offset. I can stomach that a little better, but still, why are we raising a bunch of fees to address things not associated with roads?

I DON’T like that there is no indexing for inflation as this means we will be dealing with this issue again in the future.

I DON’T like the rebate idea as originally drafted. I thought it was unwise to allow folks to get back 150% of what they paid in if they saved their gas and car repair receipts. Unlike some of my fellow senators, I believed and argued that many people will indeed take the write- off as a line item on their income taxes because we don’t really have to save receipts from the gas pumps. We can just put all gas and car repairs on our credit/Debit cards. Those cards will suffice as the receipts. We can easily then figure out the amount of gallons we used. Thus, it will be easy enough to legitimately take the write off. But, why would we get back more than we paid in? Thankfully that has now been changed. In the new version post conference citizens can only 100% of the gas tax paid on up to two cars. So, two car families will pay NO GAS TAX if they keep some form of evidence of the money spent such as putting gas on a credit or debit card then determining the appropriate deduction. Thus, the full tax can be shifted to three categories of gas purchasers: (1) tourists or (2) those who don’t bother doing the math and taking allowable deduction or (3) those who don’t bother filing/paying income taxes at all and thus can’t take the deduction as they aren’t eligible for the deduction.

I DON’T like that the conferees chose giving a tax break to manufacturers verses lower property taxes for businesses. I would prefer to see the common business person get a property tax break rather than the manufacturers get a break.

But…

I do LOVE something in the bill. There is an increase in C Funds and increase in Donor County Bonus funds as well as other fees all of which translates into more money locally for the counties which have the most heavily used roads. I do take credit for negotiating the increase in local money because I believe that local governments can best determine how certain monies should be spent. For instance, in Charleston County, with this extra money our local government could commit to paying one or more of the following items: the permitting of I- 526; a bike path to downtown; fix drainage issues which cause flooding; assist with burying the power lines in Riverland Terrace thereby saving huge grand oaks; build needed sidewalks in areas like Woodland Shores… the wish list goes on and on. In Dorchester, many folks are in need of sound barriers due to increased traffic and roadways expanding into their own backyards not to mention the completion of the parkway. There is no shortage of worthy projects that our counties can chose to spend the money on. In short, if this bill passes, I will be proud to have been instrumental into bringing more money home locally because locals know how that money should best be spent.

I DO like the DOT reform in the post-conference bill. Earlier today, I posted the latest details of the bill. Regarding reform, no one can now say we didn’t get real form for DOT. Now, our governor can remove any (or all) commissioners at will. Thus, DOT now effectively answers to the governor as he can fire any commissioner (or all of them) at anytime. Further, we codified what the other freshman and I had requested in an earlier amendment which follows many of the Legislative Audit Council’s recommendations. It will now be incumbent upon DOT to follow those codified changes.

When I ran for office, I told folks that I could not vote for the gas tax as had been presented the two years prior because it was not fair to the counties with the most road usage and which sell the most gas. Because my concerns were addressed in this bill and a split made at least somewhat more fair, I am now persuaded to vote for this bill because our roads are only going to get worse without action.

The whole goal of the tax was to put more of the costs on tourists. This bill does a lot of that, but it isn’t perfect. No bill is perfect. None of our choices have been perfect. But, if we wait for what everyone thinks is perfect we will all be risking our lives on terrible roads indefinitely.
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