June 12, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Lawmakers Continue Defending, Explaining Tax Hike Proposal

Kit Spires Pharmacy Protest


Three weeks into the South Carolina Policy Council’s project to enable citizens to ask their lawmakers whether a gas tax hike will result in the repair of specific deteriorating roads, and well over 1,000 people have participated. Many lawmakers have not responded after repeated queries – or they’ve responded with formulaic answers that amounted to non-answers – but many have responded.

Among those who have responded is Sen. Tom Corbin (R-Greenville). “Thank you for your email,” he said to one constituent. “The plan calls for DOT [Department of Transportation] engineers to evaluate all roads. They would be listed in most critical order and fixed starting with the worst and most dangerous.”

We are fairly sure that, at least in theory – though admittedly not in practice – roads are already evaluated by DOT engineers and “listed in most critical order and fixed starting with the worst and most dangerous.” Imagine a state transportation department that didn’t have that as its policy. The trouble is, that’s not being done, and the “plan” to which Sen. Corbin refers will not make it more likely to happen.

Rep. Dennis Moss (R-Cherokee) responded by placing the responsibility for road maintenance on DOT. “When we mandate projects we get criticized for not letting DOT manage our roads,” Rep. Moss wrote. “I sent your concerns to DOT. DOT has always been helpful with local concerns and request.”

Of course, DOT is in effect an arm of the legislature, not some autonomous agency and certainly not an executive agency; nearly all of its top decision makers are appointed by legislative delegations or legislative leaders. But we wouldn’t want Rep. Moss to be “criticized.”

Several responses show lawmakers getting prickly with their constituents – and some constituents speaking to their lawmakers (how to put it?) rather directly. One of these exchanges caught our attention. After some pretty  barbed criticisms, Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) ended the email exchange by writing: “I am sorry you feel the way you do, and I feel sure that you have completely read and understand the legislation so I will not go any further with trying to explain it to you.”

Sen. Shealy’s irritation is understandable. Her correspondence was not perhaps as respectable as she might have been. But when she says she is “sure that you have completely read and understand the legislation,” she is being unfair – because at the time the legislation wasn’t available to the public. All anybody had was a press release from a gaggle of Republican senators.

But perhaps our favorite response to critics wasn’t an email exchange but a comment on a Facebook post by Rep. Kit Spires (R-Lexington). After some citizens protested the gas tax increase by holding up signs in front of Rep. Spires’ pharmacy, the Lexington County lawmakers pressed the “caps lock” key and unloaded on his critics (pictured above). “MY SUPPORTERS IN DISTRICT 96 WANT BETTER ROADS AND ARE WILLING TO PAY,” wrote Rep. Spires. “PATRONS IN MY PHARMACY ASKED ME WHO THOSE PEOPLE WERE AND WHAT CHARITY WAS THE CAR WASH FOR. PEOPLE IN MY DISTRICT DO NOT PUT THEIR TRUST IN TEA PARTIES OR RADICAL GROUPS. THEY TRUST PEOPLE TO LIVE, WORK, AND RESIDE IN THE DISTRICT. BETTER ROADS EQUATE TO BETTER ECONOMICS. AS MY FATHER TOLD ME GROWING UP NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE AND IT COSTS TO RIDE.”


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The Nerve