Gov. Henry McMaster insisted Wednesday he will not support an increase to South Carolina’s 17 cents per-gallon gas tax unless all other options have been exhausted — using the phrase “last resort” seven times in about 90 seconds while answering reporters’ questions.
“We should not raise taxes on anybody or anything except as an absolutely last resort,” he said following his first Cabinet meeting as governor.
During his first two weeks in office, McMaster has been wary to associate himself with the increase. However, he has also made clear he wants to pass a long-term road funding plan during his first year in office. Legislators pushing the 10 cents per-gallon increase are hoping to have McMaster’s support. Previous Gov. Nikki Haley had opposed a similar increase last year unless it was offset by a decrease in business or income taxes.
He answered “good question,” when one reporter asked if South Carolina is at the “last resort” stage now. “In studying this issue, I’ve learned things that I had not known before,” he said. “But I’m not going to raise taxes on our people except as a last resort.”
McMaster did not say if he would veto or support the proposals currently making their way through the legislature.
A bill that would eventually raise South Carolina’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon and increase various other vehicle fees cleared a House budget subcommittee unanimously on Tuesday. The Infrastructure and Economic Development Reform Act tries to raise roughly $600 million each year for new roadwork each year by gradually raising the gas tax by 2 cents per year for five years until it reaches 26 cents per-gallon. The measure will be taken up at the full House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats on Wednesday offered their own alternative. The Democratic proposal would be a 8 cents per-gallon increase and raise the sales tax cap only on luxury cars, rather than all car purchases as House Republicans propose. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, said his party would not support lowing income taxes for “rich friends” as an offset.