South Carolina Senate leaders hope to begin debate on increasing the state’s fuel tax by ten cents per-gallon to the floor as soon as next week.
Senate transportation finance subcommittee co-chair Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, said during a meeting Tuesday that it’s time to move on the legislation. “We’ll try to get it on the floor next Tuesday, because it will be before the end of the week before we could take it up,” he said.
He said the five-year phase-in of that tax is important so that road contractors have time to prepare for the extra funding and work. According to state Transportation Secretary Christy Hall, a massive input of money at once for repairs and construction would drive up costs.
The subcommittee was considering a House proposal to raise roughly $600 million more for roads each year through a combination of the gas tax, sales tax and increases in various vehicle or registration fees. It would create a new “Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund” which could only used the new revenue for projects that would repair, preserve or improve existing roads instead of building new ones.
Campbell said he wants senators to take up the measure before they begin debating the budget next month. Given the magnitude of the project, Campbell said the state not only has to come up with money for road repairs, but must also deal with more cars on the highways and interstates as the population of South Carolina continues to grow. “The time we’re tied up in traffic and the frustration that you get sitting in gridlocked traffic, we’ve got to try and do something along that line,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting.
One of the subcommittee’s members State Sen. Tom Davis has already indicated he will filibuster the bill once it reaches the floor, believing the state Department of Transportation must itself be restructured before it receives additional funding. Other senators have said the tax increase must be offset with cuts elsewhere.
Members of the subcommittee will resume their meeting on Wednesday morning.
Once the measure reaches the floor, both sides of the debate are expected to put forth efforts to try and alter the House version. The House approved a a gas sales tax hike last year, but senators encountering gridlock took out the tax increase.