Good leaders solve problems by focusing on the challenge and developing a solution that maximizes outcome (results), minimizes input (resources) and demands hands-on management, vigorous oversight and strict accountability. Unfortunately, not all legislators are good leaders; some are just good politicians.
The machinations in Columbia about how to improve South Carolina’s roads are a good example of how politicians strive to preserve their control. Not management, not oversight, not accountability; just control.
Many legislators want to increase the gas tax without first reforming the process by which the Department of Transportation spends those dollars. They are ignoring our state treasurer’s common-sense call for a comprehensive audit of the revenues spent for road maintenance and repair before we add more money to what seems to be a seriously flawed system.
The lines of authority within the Transportation Department are extraordinarily complicated. The result is little transparency and poor accountability. The “C” Fund program uses a rigid, three-element formula that isn’t based on need or any other maintenance requirements to distribute 17 percent of gas tax revenue to the counties. Much of the rest goes to construction of new roads, expanding and subsidizing mass-transit projects, building and marking bicycle lanes, expanding walking and hiking trails and even funding non-transportation projects. It’s no wonder our roads are deteriorating.
Gov. Nikki Haley and Treasurer Curtis Loftis are correct: The Transportation Department’s labyrinthian structure must be simplified and clarified before we consider raising taxes to pay for road repairs. To do otherwise is folly.