How to Steal $214 Million

For the second session in a row, the House passed a tax-and-spend "roads bill" that keeps the same old unelected cronies in charge. Congratulations, House! Give yourselves a pat on the back for "getting things done" in Columbia. After all, politics is the art of the possible, right?

Look, and learn. Here's how it's done.

Put your smoothest operator on the job.

It doesn't hurt if he sells used cars for a living and has really great hair. While you're at it, go ahead and make him Majority Leader.

Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) masterminded and master-sold the 2015 and 2017 gas tax hikes. As Majority Leader, he decreased the number of Republican caucus meetings, tasked members called "whips" with being "thermostats rather than thermometers," and created a "business plan" for the House Republican Caucus instead of a caucus agenda--a plan which includes "infrastructure" and which the caucus never voted on. Photo credit: heraldonline.com

Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) masterminded and master-sold the 2015 and 2017 gas tax hikes. As Majority Leader, he decreased the number of Republican caucus meetings, tasked members called "whips" with being "thermostats rather than thermometers," and created a "business plan" for the House Republican Caucus instead of a caucus agenda--a plan which includes "infrastructure" and which the caucus never voted on.

Photo credit: heraldonline.com

Have him sell this:

  • Take an extra 10 cents on every gallon of gas purchased, but do it gradually so folks don't notice.
  • Take $16 extra on every vehicle registration. Take more if the car is coming from out of state, so they feel nice and welcome.
  • Take 5% of the purchase of any car that costs at least $6,000 (but not if it costs more than $10,000).
  • Take extra money from the hybrid and electric car drivers every couple years 'cause they don't buy enough gas. They'll never miss it.
  • Take fees from truckers from other states when they pass through South Carolina.
  • Put all this money in a spiffy new "lock box," but be sure it's got an emergency key that everyone has a copy of, you know, just in case.
  • For the third time in recent history, change who gets to be a road commissioner. Make sure that the Governor still can't pick the DOT Secretary, because you know, we might have a "rogue governor" one day. We really don't care for this bit, but sometimes ya gotta sweeten the worm to get the fish to bite, ya know?

Keep setting off the alarm.

It helps to flash a few scary charts around, without giving the full context.

Decline of the State Primary Road System from 2008-2015. During this time, road spending increased by more than $1 billion.

Put out even more propaganda, claiming that you need more money.

Complain about how the 1987 gas tax isn't enough for 2017, but be sure not to mention that road spending is still 3x what it was in 1987, or 2x if you adjust for inflation.

Have staff distribute statements from "industry leaders" who claim that the bill is the "last resort" to fix the roads, so that you feel guilty if you don't vote for the bill.

Hold private meetings in "comfy small group settings" where nervous Representatives won't mind asking questions because they might look stupid. When they get there, use every psychological trick in the book to manipulate them into cooperation, like telling them "you don't belong in the State House" if you aren't willing to "make hard decisions" for "the good of the state."

Be sure to go easy on a few so that they will go out and claim that you aren't doing anything nefarious:

Watch for "normal human behavior."

Sit back and relax while a few members stumble around and try to "fix" your bill.

Rep. Neal Collins tried to make the case to leadership that they could get a veto-proof majority on raising the gas tax if they would just include making DOT a cabinet agency and as little as $1 of income tax relief.

Rep. Neal Collins tried to make the case to leadership that they could get a veto-proof majority on raising the gas tax if they would just include making DOT a cabinet agency and as little as $1 of income tax relief.

Sen. Tom Davis complained when the amendment to make DOT a cabinet agency failed, never mind that the amendment left the tax increase intact, or the fact that such a shift in power would never make it past Leatherman in the Senate, or the fact that such a substantial reform piece would contribute to a veto-proof supermajority for raising the tax in both the House and the Senate.

Hide.

When the local yokels start complaining about how there are still just as many potholes after the bill passes, you'll have plenty of finger-pointing you can do. You'll be as sorry as you can be, but it's out of your hands. You really did all you can do....all the way to the bank.

If they get really really mad and start talking about voting for someone else, don't worry...remember those big businesses that were so helpful earlier? They'll be sure and give you lots of campaign cash to work with so you can start dreaming up your next mark.