The South Carolina Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would raise the state’s gas tax an additional two cents each year over six years, with the money to be used to fix roads.
The $800 million per-year plan was higher than the 10-cents over five years plan that passed the House last month. The measure approved by the Finance Committee on Tuesday also would not make changes in the state Department of Transportation’s structure, which had been in the House version, or include an offsetting decrease in income or business taxes as some Senate Republicans had wanted.
State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said various parts of the legislation will be debated on the Senate floor. “I can tell you I’ve heard from my constituents and the people of South Carolina they want their roads fixed,” he said. “They haven’t been talking about restructuring and they haven’t been talking about tax relief.”
Setzler said he expects strong debate on the Senate floor, particularly on the gas tax increase. “We know every one of these issues will be raised on the floor of the Senate,” he said.
State Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Dorchester, said he is not in favor of the legislation in its present form, but agreed that things will need to be worked out on the Senate floor. “While I am not supportive of the bill as it is currently written, but of getting to the point where we all can have debate,” Bennett said. “Most of the work is going to have to be done on the floor anyway.”
The proposal’s chances on the Senate floor are not clear. The bill’s opponents want it to include government restructuring and tax relief and a single senator could hold up debate or filibuster the measure to exact some changes from its supporters.
The Finance Commitee’s plan would also double the cap on vehicle sales taxes, from the current $300 sales tax limit up to $600. The House proposal raised it to $500.