Recently, I’ve seen numerous complaints in the Aiken Standard about the state of our roads and streets. The reason for the apparent neglect is abundantly clear; there aren‚t enough public funds available to do everything we want done. Unfortunately, it’s now at the point that there aren’t enough funds for the things that need to be done, in order for South Carolina to be an acceptably livable state.
Because of political posturing, our governor and the GOP-dominated General Assembly refuse to consider raising the gasoline tax, and that’s why our roads and our bridges are becoming increasingly hazardous. Transportation experts say our state needs an additional $1.4 billion annually to improve and maintain our roads and bridges.
But in South Carolina, the state share of gasoline taxes hasn’t been raised in more than 25 years. Currently, it’s 20 cents a gallon lower than in neighboring North Carolina.
Remember, when feeling smug about our low gasoline tax, out-of-state visitors and trucking companies make heavy use of our state highways and roads. South Carolina is crisscrossed by heavily traveled interstates. Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head rank among the most frequent destinations for motorists. In other words, our low fuel tax subsidizes truckers and motorists while they contribute heavily to the cost of road maintenance, safety and law enforcement.
Nor is that the only way our politically posturing right-wing elected officials shortchange us. Health care cost is another prime example.
Take expanded Medicaid coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of expanded Medicaid coverage for three years starting in 2014 and 90 percent starting in 2020. When South Carolina opts out – as Gov. Nikki Haley and the General Assembly have pledged to do – several hundred thousand of poor South Carolinians will be left without health coverage. The reason is that when Obamacare was adopted, no one contemplated that the U.S. Supreme Court later would rule that states could choose not to participate in the Medicaid expansion.
What makes this politically motivated “opt-out” especially damaging is that the law also cuts Medicaid reimbursement to hospitals for indigent care. South Carolina hospitals, which get stuck treating poor people in their emergency rooms, can’t believe state officials would reject $2.7 billion over the next seven years.
This state already ranks 47th in health in the nation and has one of the highest percentage of residents without health insurance, at 20 percent.
How further backward must this state drift before the voters wake up?