Back during the years when I worked with Robert Ariail, he would occasionally pay me the great compliment of saying I was the one editor he’d worked with who “thought like a cartoonist.” He had respect for my cartoon ideas, which is not always the way it goes between a word guy and an artist. (He also knew when to ignore my ideas, which was important.)
Well, I ran into him today at Lizard’s Thicket — he had just had a solitary lunch before heading back up to Camden — and he paid me another compliment, telling me two of his recent cartoons were inspired, at least in part, by things he’d read on this blog.
A reminder, once again, to anyone living in a reality-based universe: There are NO sanctuary cities in SC. Henry’s like a guy standing on the corner of Assembly & Gervais, snapping his fingers and claiming it’s keeping the elephants away… https://t.co/r29zEWnwbU
I mean, come on, people — who can possibly take seriously, for even a second, the governor of South Carolina celebrating his great “victory” (or initial step toward victory) over a completely imaginary foe?
He added: “There is no one, other than politicians, who have suggested this is something we actually need and should waste our time on.”
And I would add, only a certain kind of condescending, pandering politician, completely lacking in shame.
This morning, Micah added this via Twitter: “Sanctuary cities are already illegal in South Carolina. (See SC Code Ann. 17-13-170 and 23-3-1100.) The governor should read more of our laws already on the books and less of his intellectually-bankrupt campaign materials.”
It’s one thing to quote Henry saying some awful things. It’s another to watch the video above. You forget what he’s saying because you’re so fascinated by the way he says it. Or at least, I do.
The problem, you see, with those high school kids walking out of class the other day is that “Ah unduhstayund that theyah’s a left-wing group that is, uh, co-awdinading this around the country…”
They’re being used as a “tooool,” you see. (Actually, I don’t know how to represent the way he says it phonetically, but the “oo” sound is wholly unlike the way I say it.) At least, that’s the conclusion he’s drawn from the “infuhmation” he’s seen.
Every time I listen to him, I’m sort of struck with awe. I feel I’m transported back in time, although to where or when I’m not sure. I hope a museum somewhere in South Carolina is saving good recordings of this.
Mind you, I’m not pointing to the way he talks as a bad thing or a good thing. But it’s definitely a thing, and it seems to be unique. I don’t know anyone else who speaks quite the way he does.
I know some other folks in public life who have thick, distinctive accents, some of them very smart people — folks such as Jean Toal and Alex Sanders, and to some extent Dick and Joe Riley. And let us not forget Fritz Hollings. But none of them sound like they’re from the same place Henry comes from.
I notice that the folks I mention are a few years, or even a generation, older than I am. (They also, with the exception of Henry, are Democrats. Don’t know why, but thick-accented Republicans don’t leap to mind as readily. Joe Wilson, for instance, is virtually accentless.)
That make me think it’s to some extent a TV thing. These folks’ speech patterns had just enough time to take hold before television taught all of us to sound like we were from Nebraska, or wherever the geographical home of Standard American English is located.
Which is not to say that younger people don’t have accents. For instance, no one would doubt that James Smith, to name but one, is from the South. But their accents tend to be softer, less in-your-face, than the older folks I mention above.
Of course, I’m talking about smart, educated people. I notice their accents more than I do those of people who are neither of those things, because I expect education to have sanded off the rough edges of their manner of communication. Which is generally the case.
But not with Henry. His accent is perfect, untouched, and really something special…
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster wasn’t a supporter of National Walkout Day.
The Republican criticized the event, which involved schools across the Palmetto State and several in Columbia as well as the Midlands. He called it “shameful,” and something that was orchestrated by a “left-wing group.”
“It appears that these school children, innocent school children, are being used as a tool by left-wing group to further their own agenda,” McMaster told ETV….
“This is a tricky move, I believe, by a left-wing group, from the information I’ve seen, to use these children as a tool to further their own means,” McMaster said. “It sounds like a protest to me. It’s not a memorial, it’s certainly not a prayer service, it’s a political statement by a left-wing group and it’s shameful.”…
Really? What’s “shameful” about it? Mind you, I’m not a big believer in walkouts and other kinds of protests. I prefer for people to use their words rather than their feet (because, you know, I’m a word guy). And this is not the place to come to if you want to hear about how much wisdom we can learn from the children if only we’ll listen. You know me; I’m an “Alla you kids get offa my lawn” kind of guy, a believer in experience and the perspective that comes with it, the founder of the Grownup Party. I was born a crotchety old man, and thank goodness, I’m finally getting to the age where it doesn’t seem out of place.
But I certainly don’t doubt the sincerity of these kids. There’s a purity in it that experience tends to dilute, or at least temper. They may think and speak as children, but they really mean it.
And yeah, I know Henry means the — shall we use the phrase “outside agitators?” — who he claims put the kids up to it are the “shameful” ones rather than the kids themselves. But I see little indication that the kids have been manipulated. And if they had been, what’s “shameful” about persuading kids to stand up and say, “protect us?”
But Henry says that it is shameful, and sure, he’s a guy who knows all about doing and saying shameful things. Consider:
This is the guy who was the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Donald Trump for president, giving him a huge leap forward in viability. And he continues to stay attached at the hip, even as Trump daily demonstrates the madness of that endorsement.
This is the guy who vetoed the gas tax increase, without setting forth any viable alternative for fixing our roads — a contemptible act of political cowardice and opportunism that the lawmakers of his own party had no qualms about rising up and overriding.
This is the guy who’s going after sanctuary cities in South Carolina, even though there are no sanctuary cities in South Carolina. Given that inconvenience, which prevents him from going out and pummeling said cities, he’s demanded that they prove they’re not sanctuary cities.
All pretty shameful, right?
And now, he’s the guy impugning the integrity of the student movement against school shootings, calling it “shameful.”
Former S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condon has been appointed chairman of the Santee Cooper board of directors.
Gov. Henry McMaster made the appointment Wednesday. Condon will serve out the term ending in May left vacant when Leighton Lord resigned last December and then be appointed to a full seven-year term.
“I appreciate Gov. McMaster asking me to accept this important challenge,” Condon said in a statement. “As the future and mission of Santee Cooper is debated, my goal is to provide transparent and accountable leadership of the board, with the interests of ratepayers and customers my No. 1 priority.”…
Y’all remember Charlie, right? He was the AG who used to play pandering politics so strenuously that it was embarrassing — at least, it was embarrassing in the pre-Trump era, before standards were drastically lowered. After him, Henry McMaster’s sober stewardship in that office was a great relief.
Here’s the funny thing about Charlie, though — one on one, he was a personable and fairly reasonable guy. Sit down with him, and he seemed OK. Very likable. You just didn’t want him getting in front of a microphone, at which point he seemed to lose all restraint.
Anyway, here’s hoping that we’ll see the private, sensible, one-on-one Charles Condon at Santee Cooper, rather than Press-Release Charlie. We’ve got enough turmoil on the utility front already…
Yesterday, we had Catherine Templeton actually seizing upon that silly mistake in The State and spinning it into a tale of deliberate persecution — of herself, of course. (Politicians these days are so whiny, and take things so personally. Someone is always being mean to them.)
On Tuesday, McMaster issued a statewide proclamation designating Sunday as “Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday.”
The governor’s proclamation encourages all South Carolinians to stand for the playing of the national anthem before the Super Bowl LII matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, according to a news release from McMaster’s office.
“Standing for the national anthem recognizes and honors the sacrifice of generations of men and women who have chosen to serve in the United States Armed Forces,” McMaster said in the news release. “I ask that all South Carolinians show the world our state’s resolute commitment to supporting our troops by standing for the national anthem wherever you watch the Super Bowl with your loved ones this Sunday.”…
All I could say to that was this:
1. How will the troops know we’re doing it?
2. Does this mean I have to watch the Super Bowl?
3. When is it again?
As y’all know, I’m sympathetic to veterans who are sincerely affronted by this particular form of protest by football players. But I can’t for a moment feel sympathy for this kind of shallow, calculated manipulation…
I’m still doing the 10,000 steps-a-day thing — actually, averaging more like 12,500 the last couple of months. I do more than half in the morning before heading downtown, on my elliptical.
Then, most days, I take a walk downtown in the afternoon — usually around the USC campus and then a lap around the State House before heading back to ADCO. That puts me well over my goal, and whatever I do the rest of the day is lagniappe.
Inevitably, I run into people I know. Funny thing is, they usually don’t know me. I always wear a hat, plus my flip-up shades, to keep the sun out of my eyes (I hate glare, something that has kept me indoors most of my life). Then there’s the fact that I haven’t shaved since Christmas Eve. So everyone I run into says “Who’s that?” Earlier this week, for instance, that happened with Dwight Drake as he was walking back to Nelson Mullins from the State House.
I also run into people I don’t know, make new friends. Yesterday, I was crossing the Horseshoe when a USC cop was taking down the U.S. and state flags. He was struggling to handle the SC flag alone — holding it above his head while he tried to neatly fold it lengthwise — so I went over and helped him. As we folded, he asked whether I was a professor (the beard, I’m thinking), and I told him no, and we chatted and learned we had a mutual acquaintance. I’m not sure the triangle we folded the U.S. flag into was quite regulation, but we got the job done, more or less the way you see honor guards at military funerals do it in the movies.
Then today, I ran into our governor. His bulldog puppy had just run to the top of the State House steps — I overheard someone say “11 seconds” — and photos were being taken to mark the occasion.
As they were descending, I said “Hey, Henry,” and he squinted and said, like everyone, “Who’s that?” So I told him, and he came over and we talked about the dog. He’s about 11 months now. News reports have called him “Mac,” but I think Henry introduced him as “Mac II.” Anyway, neither of us brought up politics, and after a moment I continued the walk.
Exercise is making me more sociable…
Imagine the flip-up shades being deployed, and you can see why the incognito thing works.
But after I’ve thought a minute, I have other questions and observations as well:
Is this how it’s going to work? Even though I’ve advocated for having the Gov Lite run with the gov, I guess when they got around to making that happen, I didn’t read the the bill very carefully. Or, let’s face it, at all. (Nobody pays me to do that now, and even when they did pay me, I’d get Cindi or someone to read the bills, and tell me what they said.) I had sort of thought a gubernatorial candidate would pick a running mate after being nominated — to the extent that I’d thought about it. Like president and vice president.
Thinking that, or sorta thinking it, I’d assumed that Henry would pick Catherine Templeton, if he could beat her in the primary. Instead, he’s picking someone who (he presumably believes) helps him counter whatever appeal Ms. Templeton may have. As Democratic operative Tyler Jones said, “Not sure why people are surprised about McMaster’s Lt. Gov pick. He’s running against a female outsider. So he put a female outsider on his ticket. Not hard.”
Which brings me to my problem with her. I can’t see putting someone with zero experience in public office a heartbeat away from the governor’s office. We’ve never seen this person operate in the public sphere. We have absolutely no way of knowing how she would perform. She says, she’s never made a dime off of government, which translated from the Trumpese means she is in no way qualified for the job… or if she is, she was miraculously born qualified, because nothing she’s done since has prepared her for it in any way.
She says, “I was a Trump girl from the beginning,” which, you know… Words fail me (which I guess kinda makes me a “Trump boy,” in a sense). So much for balancing a ticket, eh? Take Henry’s absolutely worst trait, and pick someone just like that to run with. Sheesh.
Is “Evette” a surname or a middle name — you know, like an alternative spelling of “Yvette?” (OK, that one’s kind of a throwaway — no need to answer.)
Remember the squirm-inducing video of Nikki Haley being interviewed by some pro-Confederate flag guys back in 2010? Remember how she meekly gave them the reassurances they sought, while looking like a hostage forced to say these things?
Something caused me to look back at that (I think it was a comment on this blog, but it may have been on an old post, because I’m not finding it now), and to note that Henry McMaster, too, was interviewed by the same guys at the time.
“These guys,” by the way, were a group that redundantly called themselves “South Carolina Palmetto Patriots,” and said this about their agenda on their now-defunct website:
The Federal government has stolen our liberties and rights and nullified our ability to self govern as a state. It is the obligation of all people of our great state to restore unto ourselves and our children these inalienable rights as set forth in The Constitution of the United States of America.
As I noted at the time, that was their 2010 agenda and not their 1860 agenda, but I can see how you might have been confused.
Back to the McMaster videos: There are six clips of about 10 minutes each, and there are commonalities with the Haley clips. For one thing, Henry sometimes looked very wary of these guys and their questions, as I think you can see in the still above. Or maybe that’s just me; I share the image so you can decide yourself.
He doesn’t seem to be having a rollicking good time. Still, he gives them the answers they seek, promptly and perfunctorily, as they tick off their list of traits that make an acceptable person in their book.
In the first clip, he starts out with a recitation of the 10th Amendment’s limitations on the federal government, which seemed welcome to these (as we learn later) latter-day nullificationists. At times, it takes on the cadences of the Catholic baptismal rite — if you’re a Protestant, you’ve heard it in “The Godfather:”
Do you reject Satan?
And all his works?
And all his empty promises?
Only on this video, it’s:
Have you read the constitution of the state of South Carolina?
Do you believe we should be governed by this document?
On that second “yes,” Henry seems a bit impatient. Of course, it is an idiotic and insulting question to ask an officer of the court, but you get that sort of thing from the kinds of extremists who believe that they are the only ones who understand what the constitution in question truly means.
Do you think it is better to have the government spending money to improve the economy or have tax cuts to improve the economy?
Tax cuts. I don’t think there’s any question about that.
Do you think we should amend our state constitution to include the right of petition and recall by the people…?
Are you a Christian? What is your current church membership?
Yes. First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; I’ve been there my whole life.
After that last, there is a pause, and the questioner explains, “Some of these questions are designed for other candidates…,” because, as he notes twice, he had known Henry was a Christian.
Eventually, after Henry makes it clear that he adamantly disapproves of illegal immigration, they get down to the nitty-gritty, at 8:10 in the clip:
Do you support keeping the Confederate Battle Flag in its current location…?
At that point, the questioner turns things over to “Bob,” who possesses an accent that gives Henry’s a good run for its money. The grilling on this subject continues to the end of the first clip, and all the way to 5:16 on the second one — after which “Bob” moves on to nullification.
When I listened to all this this morning, I typed up Henry’s answers in some detail — and my PC crashed before I could save it. Suffice to say, he further assured them that the flag flying on the State House grounds was a settled matter. Everyone had had their say during the debate before the “compromise,” and that was that.
Of course, he now says that the removal of the flag is a settled matter (if I read it correctly), so let’s give him credit for that.
I confess I didn’t spend an hour listening to all six clips. Do so, if you’re so inclined, and share with us what you find. I just found it interesting to revisit, however briefly. I’ll leave you with this: As marginal as these guys might have seemed in 2010, the video seems almost quaint today — after Charlottesville. And at the same time chilling, after Mother Emanuel…
Say “sanctuary,” and I think of a place like this. And you know what? It doesn’t make me angry…
I meant to post about this yesterday, but got sidetracked…
South Carolina cities and counties may soon have to prove they are not “sanctuary cities” providing safe harbor to undocumented immigrants.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and Republican lawmakers said Monday they will push to require cities and counties to prove they are cooperating with federal immigration agents and allowing immigration laws to be enforced.
Jurisdictions that fail to comply with federal immigration laws would lose their state money for three years, McMaster said, announcing the proposal in Greenville….
I thought Henry McMaster was a pretty good attorney general — which surprised me somewhat at the time.
But now… how does an attorney, an officer of the court, say that not someone is obliged to prove he is innocent of wrongdoing?
Particularly when the “wrongdoing” is, at worst, being softhearted. Yeah, I know: You’ll say, but they are harboring illegals! And you’ll say it as though they were gunrunners, or terrorists — instead of being poor people who failed to get the proper paperwork before coming to this country to do backbreaking work in order to better their lives, and those of their families.
Of course, we can argue about whether such sanctuaries are a good thing all day, but let me stop you and point out that, to Henry’s knowledge, there are no “sanctuary cities” in South Carolina. (The punchline to this joke, I suppose, is “See what a great job I’m doing keeping them away?”)
So… the governor of our state, having no reason to believe there are any sanctuary cities in South Carolina, nevertheless wants to force these city governments to waste resources going through the rigmarole of proving a negative.
And if they fail to prove their innocence, what happens? He would cut off the state funds that are a significant portion of local government’s budgets — meaning he would deny the law-abiding South Carolinians who live in those cities their share of the state taxes that they are paying to the state.
But you know what? I don’t think Henry cares a bit about this, as a policy matter. I doubt he’s someone who sits up nights worrying about whether there’s an illegal alien in Charleston, or Florence, or Greer who for the moment is free of worrying about imminent deportation.
No, as an early advocate of Donald Trump, he just wants to sound like he’s going to be meaner to illegals than the next guy.
Or gal. And meanwhile, Catherine Templeton is bound and determined to let you know that she was being mean to illegals way before that ol’ softy Henry was:
Sanctuary cities should be outlawed and that is why they already are in South Carolina. Have been since 2011, I helped enforce w/ Gov Haley.
I’m not sure how that fit into the duties of the chief of DHEC, but whatever. The details don’t matter, as long as you’re sounding like the kind of person who gets indignantly angry at the sound of nasty words such as “sanctuary.”
With next year’s race for governor beginning to take shape in recent days, I got to thinking back to the moment when Henry McMaster lost me.
Speaker Jay Lucas and the rest of the GOP leadership in the House, eventually joined by the GOP-led Senate, had shown courage in stepping up to pass a bill that reformed our Highway department and, for the first time in 30 years, raised the tax on gasoline in order to pay for road repairs.
Lawmakers had hoped, after two governors in a row who were more about anti-government posturing than governing, that they would have a pragmatic partner in McMaster, someone who was serious about South Carolina’s needs and how to address them.
They were wrong. And they were bitterly disappointed.
I remembered reading at the time that that disappointment was eloquently expressed in a floor speech by an unlikely spokesman — my own rookie representative, Republican Micah Caskey. I missed his speech at the time. But I went back and watched it this week. Here it is. If you watch it, you can see why one observer responded this way, according to a reporter with The State:
Overheard on the House floor after @MicahCaskey‘s speech: “Damn!”
Freshmen just don’t say things like this to their own party’s governor. But Micah did.
The relevant part of the speech — after Micah pays his respects to his new colleagues and notes this is his first time to take the podium — starts at 5:50.
His one prop, and the object of his scorn, was a copy of McMaster’s veto message, delivered the night before. Some excerpts:
“What this is,” he says of the letter, “is not leadership.”
“Its intellectual dishonesty is only outweighed by its intellectual bankruptcy.”
“The governor surely had an opportunity to lead on this issue. He knew there was a problem. He could have done it…. He didn’t do it.”
“He chose to remain silent. He chose not to act. He chose not to lead.”
“Had he put forth an idea, we could have gone from there…”
“I don’t like raising taxes… I didn’t want to have to vote ‘yes’ for this bill… but I did, because that’s what leadership requires: Admitting reality and stepping forward and addressing it.”
“What it is not is cowering below, hiding behind political pablum, waiting on somebody else to fix it because you were worried about your own career.”
Waving the letter aloft, he said “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a serious message. This is not a serious proposal. This is not a serious alternative to what it is that ails South Carolina today. It is not. It is not.”
“What this is… this… is politics. South Carolina doesn’t need more politics. South Carolina needs serious answers to serious problems.”
Of the alternative the governor suggested, Caskey said: “We’re gonna bond out road paving over 20 years for something that’ll depreciate in 10. That’s his idea.”
“That’s not a serious answer.”
“What I am saying in my vote to override the veto is that this (holds up the letter), this is not good enough. We need more leadership.”
He tells his colleagues that however they vote, “I know you’ve been engaged. You led.” Unlike the governor.
He concluded by saying that a vote to override would say, “We deserve better. We deserve leadership. And you can take this message…”
What they did not address, at least to my satisfaction, is the larger question: Why sell Santee Cooper?
In the normal course of things, it seems an idea worth exploring: Why should the state operate a utility, now, in the 21st century? We’ve pretty much made it through the rural electrification phase of our development.
But in the context of the current scandal over the nuclear plant fiasco, it makes less sense. To me, anyway.
I mean, isn’t everybody kind of ticked off that Santee Cooper — and SCANA — were out of control on this thing?
Wouldn’t the natural reaction under such circumstances be to think, “Hey, we own Santee Cooper. Since we own it, we can get it under control.” If the current laws and regulations don’t allow for that kind of control — and it appears they don’t — then change the laws and regulations.
But don’t sell it off to some out-of-state conglomerate that won’t give a damn what we want the utility to do and to be.
Isn’t there something kind of irresponsible in state officials wanting to wash their hands of the utility at this particular moment? Isn’t this kind of a backwards reaction?
There’s probably a flaw in my thinking on this that is obvious to everybody but me. Please, somebody explain it to me…
Promising to veto an increase to the state’s gas tax to repair the state’s roads, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster wants lawmakers instead to borrow up to $1 billion to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads.
McMaster, governor since January, urged lawmakers to change a proposed $500 million borrowing plan, proposed by the House, to instead spend that money — and more — on roads. McMaster made his proposal in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington….
The speaker gave the proposal the contempt it deserved. Translated from genteel Lucasspeak, he not only said “No,” but “Hell, no:”
Governor McMaster’s proposal continues the pattern of placing the costs of road repair solely on the South Carolina taxpayer and not on out-of-state motorists who use and deteriorate our crumbling roads. Borrowing more money to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges will not serve as a permanent solution to our infrastructure crisis. The House passed our roads bill with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto proof majority, which protects the South Carolina taxpayer by providing a sustainable funding stream that requires every motorist to pay their fair share.
Not only is Henry throwing behind the runner — he’s throwing to first when the House has long ago crossed home plate — but the proposal would have been ridiculous even if it were still an open question in that body.
We have a mechanism for the ongoing funding of roads — the gas tax. You want to fix roads and you don’t have enough money, you raise the gas tax. It’s not complicated, and there is no call for trying to reinvent the wheel as a way of avoiding the obvious, commonsense solution….
Several weeks back, I was on an elevator with a Republican attorney who asked me what I though about how Henry McMaster was doing as governor.
As I was mentally crafting a reply — something like I have hopes, and I see the gasoline tax issue as one that will help determine whether the hopes are justified — he followed up his own question with speculation about Mark Sanford running against Henry in 2018, and wondering whether any other Republicans will run as well.
I don’t know what I said to that. After Donald Trump handed Henry the job he’d wanted so long, I had sort of stopped pondering 2018, thinking Well, that’s that. I certainly hadn’t given any thought to Mark Sanford having ambitions of running again for the office for which he is so spectacularly unsuited, as he spent eight years demonstrating. I probably just made some noises likehomina-homina, as though the speech center of my brain had been struck by lightning.
I had not spent time worrying about that the same way I don’t wake up in the morning worrying about an invasion of Nazi zombies. (Of course, when the Nazi zombies do take over, you realize that you should have worried.)
Anyway, once the brain started running again, I started thinking: Is this why Henry’s running from the chance to lead on the gas tax? Is it all about fearing a challenge from Mr. Club for Growth? (And yeah, Sanford had been on a number of people’s 2018 speculation lists — I just hadn’t been paying attention to that stuff.)
Let’s set aside the absurdity of Sanford leaving his comfort zone to once again occupy the governor’s chair. Being a member of the “no” caucus in Congress suits Sanford’s style perfectly. His political M.O. is: Toss out proposals and watch them get shot down, and then moan about it. That seems to be what he runs to do. That makes him perfectly suited to be a member of the Freedom Caucus. Nobody expect them to accomplish anything. Do that as governor, and you just make the legislative leadership of your own party want to throttle you. They count the days until you’re gone, hoping you’ll be replaced by someone who wants to govern.
Which is what, after 14 years of Sanford and Nikki Haley, lawmakers had every reason to expect. And they did. They were even described as “giddy” about the prospect:
“He’s pragmatic,” said state Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester. “He gets people together to reach compromises. He doesn’t dig into one position, and you’re either with him or you’re not.”
Publicly, S.C. lawmakers offer mostly guarded assessments of Haley and their optimism about McMaster, who will ascend to the governor’s office once Haley is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a few weeks.
Privately, however, some are giddy to trade in Haley – a 44-year-old Republican who bashed lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature on Facebook and in their hometowns, offered failing “grades” to those who disagreed with her and told a real estate group to “take a good shower” after visiting the State House – for McMaster, a GOP governor they think will work with them….
Meanwhile, we saw the GOP leadership in the House stepping out and leading on fixing our roads — unabashedly raising the gas tax, and reforming governance of the agency.
And then, rather than joining them in the vanguard, Henry started muttering about what a bad idea raising the tax was (as though there were some rational alternative way of paying for roads, which there isn’t), making ominous “last resort” noises. As though we hadn’t gotten to the “last resort” stage some time ago.
No, he hasn’t promised to veto such an increase — which would have been his predecessor’s opening move — but he just won’t stop sending out bad vibes about it. (“Always with the negative waves, Moriarty!”)
It’s bad enough that the proposal has to run the Senate gauntlet, with Tom Davis shooting at it from one side and the “tax increase yes; reform no” crowd on the other. When a thing needs doing, the Senate is at its best dysfunctional. It would have been really, really nice to have the governor standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Speaker Lucas in trying to solve this problem, instead of standing by and watching it get kicked farther down the pothole-pocked road.
“Taxes are a killer?” Really? No, governor — unsafe roads are a killer, if anything is on this front.
Of course, if one is inclined to pessimism, one might think the window for leadership has closed or soon will, now that a dark cloud has parked itself over anyone and everyone associated with Richard Quinn. I certainly hope that’s not the case, because we have issues in South Carolina that need to be addressed.
I also hope the governor won’t hold back out of fear of 2018, because at some point, you really need to stop running for office and govern…
A plan to raise S.C. gas taxes by roughly $60 a year was approved Tuesday by a panel of S.C. House members.
The bill will be considered by the full S.C. House budget-writing panel on Thursday.
The proposal is an effort to address the the $1 billion a year the Transportation Department has said it needs to repair and maintain the state’s existing road network….
And good for Speaker Jay Lucas and the other leaders who’ve gotten behind a bill to do the obvious: raise the gas tax to improve our roads.
I haven’t written about this courageous and rational move because I hadn’t fully made up my mind what to say about it. It’s basically a laudable, long-overdue proposal that is nevertheless seriously flawed.
The reasons why it’s laudable and long-overdue are obvious to all but those rendered blind by ideology:
This tax is our state’s mechanism for paying for roads.
We need road repairs, and don’t have enough money.
Our gas tax is one of the lowest in the country.
It hasn’t been raised since 1987.
So, you know, duh — raise it. Especially since we no longer have a governor who absurdly (and we’re talking Alice in Wonderland absurdity) threatened to veto a gas tax increase that wasn’t accompanied by a much larger decrease in other taxes, thereby more than erasing any benefit from raising the gas tax.
But here’s the rub: It’s not paired with reform of the state Department of Transportation. And it needs to be. That agency needs to be more accountable before we give it more money.
Unfortunately, after last year’s non-reform of the agency, the most recent in a long line of non-reforms our General Assembly has handed us, there’s little appetite or energy for trying again this year, knowing the same obstacles exist. As Cindi wrote today, “the reality is that if our best advocate, House Speaker Jay Lucas, isn’t pushing reform, we’re not going to get reform.”
So that’s that. (Oh, and if you decry the power Hugh Leatherman regained upon his re-election as president pro tem of the Senate, this is an issue where you have a point — he’s a big obstacle to reform.)
Bottom line, we need to raise the tax, and we need reform. I haven’t yet fully decided what I would do were I a lawmaker. But I do admire the courage of those who finally broke the ridiculous taboo in that committee vote today — while I hope against hope for some reform to get attached to it later in the process.
To begin with, it’s not a solution. Since $4 billion of that would go to roads, that kicks the problem down the road four years, no more. Which, conveniently, would be after the date that Henry McMaster hopes to be elected to stay as governor.
Given what we’ve seen from this Legislature over the last two decades and more, it is highly unlikely that it will be in the mood to raise the gas tax or any other tax four years from now. The fact that the House leadership is ready to do so now is something of a miracle — possibly resulting from giddiness over the departure of Nikki Haley — and unlikely to be duplicated.
Then there’s the fact that the federal government exists to fund and address national needs and priorities. There is no proposal currently on the table (that I know of) that would provide this level of funding nationally, so why should South Carolina — a state that with its super-low gas tax has refused even to try to pay for its own roads — be singled out for such largess? And no, “Because the president owes our governor big-time” is not an ethical answer. It probably makes sense in the deal-oriented private world Donald Trump has always inhabited, but to say the very least, it’s not good government.
My position on this is much the same as my reasoning against the state lottery way back when — public education is a basic function of the state, and if we want good schools, we should do what responsible grownups do: dig into our pockets and pay for them, not try to trick someone else into paying for them.
Similarly, if we want safe and reliable roads, we shouldn’t rely on some deus ex machina — or worse, cronyism — to deliver us from the responsibility of paying for them.
I see now that Henry is saying raising the gas tax should be the “last resort.” No, governor, trying to pay for our own needs ourselves should be our first resort. At least, it should come well before taking the begging cup to Washington. Besides, we’ve avoided doing this for 30 years now. How long do you go before it’s time for the “last resort?”