South Carolina House Republicans late Tuesday voted to kill a Democratic effort to raise the state’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon.
Lawmakers rejected the proposal in a 65-43 vote. Two Republicans (State Reps. Chip Limehouse and Don Wells) voted for the proposal while no Democrats voted against it.
House leaders dedicated a total of $415 million for roadwork in next year’s budget, a slight increase than what passed the Ways and Means Committee a few weeks ago. That total includes nearly $50 million to pay for flood-related repairs.
Some Democrats were worried that just taking the money out of the General Fund wouldn’t serve as a stable source to repair roads and bridges. State Rep. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia, favored the roads budget that the House passed last year which proposed an excise tax on wholesale gas. The proposal would have offset that increase by giving most taxpayers on average a $48 savings on their personal income taxes. However, Senate Republicans made it clear they would not support any tax or fee increases.
“We can’t afford to rob our general fund of $400 million,” McLeod said in a media conference before Tuesday’s vote. “We need to do the right thing, increase the gas tax, share costs with out of state motorist and find a fix for our roads.”
State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, said he is unsure of why there is no longer support of including a gas tax increase. “In a bipartisan manor we came together and we voted overwhelmingly to come up with a solution that we all agree is the number one problem plaguing our constituents across the state of South Carolina: and that is the condition of our roads and our bridges,” he said. “It’s time for (House Republicans) to care more about doing their jobs than keeping their jobs.”
Lawmakers voted Monday to redirect the various vehicle fees that drivers pay the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so that the revenue would instead be directed solely towards roads. The move would reroute roughly $100 million from the DMV to the state Department of Transportation (DOT). Under the plan, the legislature would instead use the state budget’s General Fund to cover costs at the currently self-sufficient DMV.
The new method included in the House budget Tuesday is a counter to the Senate’s alternative plan which would simply set aside $400 million out of the General Fund each year. House Republicans prefer a long-term funding source outside of the General Fund.
Kimberly Washington filed this report