Another day of disarray Tuesday in the South Carolina Senate on road funding legislation.
The major sticking point of the legislation is the prospect of raising the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. Conservatives say any increase should be offset by an income tax decrease and reforms in how road projects are chosen. But Democrats and moderate Republicans say the public only wants more road money and argue this is not the time to make changes in the state Department of Transportation.
Senators never got to the contentious bill, but instead referenced it during roundabout debates on other loosely-related agenda items such as separate legislation on road worker safety.
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, took a swipe at the House version of a bill. “So they came up with a shell game where they said we’re not going to raise the gas tax, we’re going to lower the gas tax. How about that? We’re going to fix your roads and lower the gas tax. Aren’t we great?” Hutto said on the Senate floor Tuesday, referencing the House version of the bill that would lower the gas tax in favor of a new sales tax on wholesale gas purchases.
Hutto said he is hearing from his constituents. “I didn’t have a sole walk up to me and ask me about anything else but the roads bill,” he said.
The president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Ted Pitts suggested putting more pressure on senators to pass a road bill by asking them to give up their paychecks until they actually begin debate on the measure. President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said Tuesday that did not deserve a response.
Leatherman said ending the filibuster with a vote would limit debate on 300 different amendments to 10 minutes each. The Florence Republican said that simply isn’t enough time on each amendment to work out issues.