The Centinel: SC Collective Road Act

March 25, 2015…

Ah, the season of giving is upon us once again! No, not Christmas; it’s March 25th and tax time is just around the corner!

Uncle Sam and Aunt Columbia are coming around, and they’re asking for donations to various worthwhile causes. Uncle Sam is trying to raise funds for those poor, unfortunate souls that took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up staying in his backyard for a few decades. And right now, Aunt Columbia’s pet project seems to be helping those sad roads that just don’t seem to be able to fix themselves, no matter how hard they try! What’s a good aunt to do, but help out?

Judging by the effort that good old Aunt Columbia is putting forth to raise money to fix those roads, this cause is the sole reason for her existence. She has pulled out all the stops and will stop at nothing to solve this problem (that she wants you to know she had nothing to do with creating). In fact, she doesn’t know the meaning of the word “stop”! Or the words “slow down”. And the words “let’s take some time to discuss how this problem originated and solve the root causes of it before we engage in frenetic activity that will merely mask the problem and potentially aggravate it and, oh yeah, maybe we should see how much money we have and determine where it comes from and where it goes before we throw frighteningly vast sums of it into the gaping maw of Road Maintenance”? Yeah, those words have never crossed the threshold of poor Aunt Columbia’s consciousness to darken her thought processes.

No, not for Aunt Columbia is the calm and measured response that carefully analyzes and plans. Not for her are the steady, rational methodologies of approaching problems that minimize the chance of recurrence. She is a being of action! She must accomplish! Only after a whirlwind of aimless fluttering and pointless activity can she preen herself like a bantam cock and crow, “I have fixed it!!”

And, so, we have before us one of the fruits of Aunt Columbia’s efforts. This particular gem is Senate Bill 523, also known as the “SC Collective Murmur of Disbelief; You Call This a Road Act?!” It is a masterpiece of fluttering activity, not to mention masterful methods of obtaining that cold, hard cash that will undoubtedly solve every problem the roads have ever seen.

As we gaze on its beauty, the first facet of this gem that we observe is the veritable cornucopia of cash-extracting devices contained therein. Shylock has nothing on Aunt Columbia. From doubling of driver’s license fees to 66% increases in passenger vehicle registrations to an ever-so-opportunistic 63% increase in the motor fuel tax (automatically adjusted annually for inflation!); it’s all here! You want a pound of flesh? Choose your cut!

Continuing our perusal, we are struck by the sophisticated scope of this proposal. It’s as if Aunt Columbia was inspired by Scrooge himself as she frantically thought up new ways to reach that magic, made-up revenue number she was aiming for. I’m sure she could have come up with new $20 registration fees on private trailers and possibly new road user fees of $60-120 on alternative fuel vehicles; that’s a gimme. But new 5% initial road impact registration fees, new 5% proof of ownership road maintenance fees, new 6% highway safety and improvement fee, new 5% transfer fees on aircraft, boats, and light construction equipment? There were chains clanking in that room, I guarantee it! One does not simply come up with the idea of charging extra 6% fees on vehicle repairs or calling roadside assistance…

Finally, we stand in dumbfounded awe at the sheer brazenness of Aunt Columbia as she checks groups of people off of her “donation” list…

“Let’s see, the elderly and disabled? I’ve got an 80% increase in passenger vehicle registration fees for 65+ year olds and disabled, a 73% increase in those fees for 64 year olds, and the elimination of state sales tax exemption on hearing aids. Checkamundo. 

Next, young people? We have elimination of sales tax exemption for out-of-state military members, elimination of sales tax exemption on personal property sold to charitable children’s hospitals, and limited sales tax exemption for Back-to-School sales tax holiday. Checkarooni. 

Middle aged wage earners… Hmmm, where to start? Elimination of sales tax exemption on time shares, extended service and warranty contract for motor vehicles, any property sold to the public through a sheriff’s sale, bullion/coins/currency, firearms during Second Amendment Weekend, energy efficient products for home and personal use… Whew! Checkoffski!!

And then I’ve got my catch-all buckets. Let’s see, that 6% mechanic’s tax on vehicle repairs covers everything from construction to restoration to oil changes to major repairs on any vehicle. (Thank you, Scrooge!) And all of those new user fees now have a $1,400 max instead of the old, lame $300 max! I’m golden!!”

Yes, my friends, Aunt Columbia is golden. In this season of giving, she doesn’t need Santa Claus to give her anything because she has the goose that lays golden eggs, and she can buy whatever she wants. Like new roads…

– The Centinel