The S.C. House of Representatives has approved a bill that would increase the state’s gas tax and create several driving fees in order to raise about $600 million annually for road and bridge repairs across the state.
The bill, H.3516, would increase the state’s gas tax by 2 cents a year for the next five years and increase the cap on the vehicle sales tax from $300 to $500 and add $60 or $120 fees for hybrid and electric vehicles every two years. It will also create a motor carrier road user fee for out-to-state truckers, and reform governance of the state Department of Transportation’s Highway Commission.
“Fixing South Carolina’s dangerous roads and bridges should be the greatest priority for this legislative session,” said House Speaker Jay Lucas. “Refusing to compromise will not solve our roads problem, but simply places politics above responsible public policy … a delayed resolution continues to threaten the safety of South Carolina drivers and increases costs for repair and resurfacing of decaying roads and bridges,” he said.
The state’s gas tax hasn’t been adjusted since 1987, and is among the lowest in the nation. But the gas tax increase and fees will eventually raise the $1 billion that the SCDOT estimates it needs to repair and maintain the state’s roads and bridges, according to Lucas.
“As this bill makes its way to the Senate, it is my hope that the reform and funding components included in this legislation will be seriously considered and a long-term, sustainable solution is quickly agreed upon,” he added.
State Reps. Bruce Bannister, Chandra Dillard, Dwight Loftis, Leola Robinson-Simpson, and Phyllis Henderson were the Greenville representatives to vote for the bill. Reps. Jason Elliott, Mike Burns, Gary Smith, William Chumley and Eric Bedingfield voted against the tax increase. Reps. Tommy Stringer and Mark Willis didn’t cast a vote.
“South Carolina’s roads and bridges are crumbling and the House took an important first step today to solve this safety and economic development crisis. It is evident to everyone that we have to fix our roads,” Elliott said in a statement.
“I voted no on the current version of the bill because we need to put the DOT in the governor’s cabinet to provide real accountability. We should also insure that our hardworking citizens who live paycheck to paycheck are not negatively impacted by increasing the gas tax,” he added.
The bill has received enough approval from the House to override a veto by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who has called the gas-tax increase a “last resort.” The House-approved bill will now be added to the Senate calendar for debate. Some opponents of the bill plan to filibuster.