Major deficits in the budget have strained South Carolina legislators to find the funds needed for repairs along the state’s roads and bridges as well as fix the pension plan for state employees.
But Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday again dismissed the idea of raising South Carolina’s gas tax, even as legislators in both chambers insist it’s necessary to repair the state’s aging roads and bridges.
“Less than half of the gas tax money to date would go fixing roads and bridges,” said McMaster. “Raising taxes is rarely the answer and it is not the answer in this case.”
Early Wednesday morning, a Senate subcommittee approved a bill that would increase the state’s gas tax by 12 cents per-gallon to help fix roads and bridges across the state. The Senate bill asked for 2 cents more a gallon than a similar bill moved through the House last week.
McMaster would not commit to vetoing any legislation should it hit his desk, but reiterated his stance that people in South Carolina are already taxed enough.
His view on taxes also extends to other budget problems like the state pension fund.
Moments after introducing Clarendon County Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Jones as the new South Carolina Fire Marshal, McMaster carefully avoided saying that he would ask state employees (firefighters included) to contribute a higher percentage of their incomes to the crumbling pension fund.
“There are other ideas about perhaps starting a new type of system for new people,” said McMaster. “But clearly we are in a spot and we are going to have to get out of it and it is going to cost some money to do so.”
The state pension fund has a $24 billion gap between the cash it has on hand and the amount of benefits it has promised to state employees. A bill passed the Senate last week that would change the pension system to eventually operate more like a 401(k) benefit plan, but the House . State employees will be asked to contribute 9.00 percent of their income following a July 1 increase. Law enforcement personnel will contribute 9.75 percent.