A group of bipartisan lawmakers announced September 22 that they are prepared to raise South Carolina’s gas tax in order to fund necessary repairs to the state’s roads and bridges.
In an annual meeting held by the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, Senators Karl Allen (D-Greenville), Danny Verdin (R-Laurens), Paul Campbell (R-Berkley), and Gleen Reese (D-Spartanburg), and Representatives Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville), Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington), and House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) affirmed their support for raising the state gas tax. However, they told the coalition to try and garner the support of the governor, rather than attempting to get two-thirds approval of lawmakers to override a veto. The lawmakers maintained that a veto would kill any bill presented to the governor, and support from the governor would greatly increase its likelihood of passing in the legislature.
Otis Rawl, president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, encouraged voters to consider the candidates’ stance on transportation funding when voting in the upcoming November 4 general election. Incumbent Governor Nikki Haley (R) maintained that her proposal for new road funding will be shared when the state Legislature convenes in January if she is re-elected. Democratic candidate Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) announced a plan that would authorize the state to utilize bonds in order to launch road maintenance and repairs, and would commit five percent of the state’s general fund surplus for infrastructure improvements. Both candidates have expressed opposition to a state gas tax increase in the past.
The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce conducted a poll of 800 Republicans March 2014, which showed that a majority of that party’s voters within the state would support a one-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase that would expire in 10 years. Additionally, 62 percent of those polled believe that South Carolina does not spend enough on roads and bridges. Rep. Stringer noted that Republican lawmakers can support an increase in the state gas tax without alienating their supporters, citing his failed attempt to index the state gas tax to inflation. Rep. Stringer won his June 2014 GOP primary election with almost 80 percent of the vote.
The lawmakers attending the meeting agreed that a transportation funding solution is necessary and will be a priority in the next year. A report released August 21 by the South Carolina Department of Transportation found the state will need $70.45 billion in order to meet the state’s transportation needs through the year 2045. Current revenue sources will only generate $27.63 billion during that time, or $1.11 billion per year, leaving a $42.82 billion shortfall over the next 29 years. South Carolina must find almost $1.5 billion more annually in order to maintain and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure. The state gas tax of 16 cents-per-gallon has not been raised since 1987.
A 13-member bipartisan legislative committee created by House and Senate leaders met for the first time September 16 to discuss approaches for raising funds to maintain and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.