SC lawmakers to discuss gas tax hike again in 2017 to fix roads, bridges

Published: Dec. 29, 2016 at 10:58 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 at 12:22 PM EST
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YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - A proposed bill in South Carolina would allow county voters to choose whether to raise the gas tax to fund crumbling roads and bridges, but not everyone is in favor of the idea.

The bill was pre-filed by lawmakers from the Charleston area.

Funding to fix poor roads in the Palmetto State has been the center of debate for lawmakers in Columbia for years.

Legislators were unable to come to a long-term solution to fund the needed infrastructure improvements. The issue is expected to be a top priority when they return in January.

"Taking your children to school on roads that are inferior and trying to get safely routed to where you need to go, it becomes an issue," said Rep. Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill).

Simrill proposed raising the state gas tax in 2016. The measure passed the House but was stymied in the Senate.

In 2017, Simrill plans to introduce a similar bill that would raise the gas tax two cents each year until the price is up ten cents. He believes gradually increasing the tax will be less of a burden to residents and allow the state to have the revenue to fix the road problems.

"Unfortunately, we are so low that we're not paying at the pump enough to keep our roadways safe," Simrill said.

South Carolina has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country, and a lot of drivers want to keep it that way.

"We have people crossing the border daily to get gas compared to North Carolina and I believe it's just been a plus, something positive," said Shayla Abrams, who was filling up in Rock Hill.

Abrams admitted she's seen problems on area roadways, but she does not support a statewide gas tax hike as a fix.

"You have some areas that are worse off. You may see more potholes in the York area or you may see more in the Chester area than Rock Hill," Abrams said.

Lawmakers from the Charleston area are proposing a different bill that would allow South Carolina counties to raise the gas tax to fund road repairs through a referendum.

"That's a decision that I would want to make myself," said Robert Ashley from York County.

Simrill believes a state-wide problem calls for a state-wide solution.

"If you start trying to pull from that in different directions you don't end up with a system that overall is better, you end up with competing interest," Simrill said, "and so what I would prefer us to do as a general assembly is bite the bullet, do what we need to do."

Lawmakers estimate that about one-third of the people who fill up in South Carolina come from out of state.

Simrill wants to keep the state competitive without putting the burden on state residents. He said his bill will include an end of the year credit for people who file taxes in South Carolina in an attempt to be revenue-neutral.

Lawmakers get back to work in Columbia in January 2017.

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