updated 3:51, January 20
Bill Seymour didn’t know that almost half his gas bill these days pays for taxes.
“I have not thought about those gas taxes,” said the Gilbert resident, who has been spending almost $30 to fill up his Dodge Ram 1500 truck. Gas prices in South Carolina averaged $1.64 per gallon as of January 20, according to GasBuddy.
The state chapter of the activist group, Americans for Prosperity paid the tab on the gas tax for Seymour on Wednesday morning. It costed him $13.98 to fill up his truck.
The fillup was an effort by the group to raise awareness among Lexington residents of how much they’re already paying in tax, despite multiple proposals in the Statehouse to increase the gas tax to fund infrastructure repairs.
“Most people don’t realize how much we’re paying in gas tax already,” said Seth Powell, a Greenville resident who led the event.
Nine volunteers were slated to gather between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at a Lexington Exxon to share their message and pick up drivers’ gas tax tab on the first 2,000 gallons.
Seymour said drivers are paying enough in gas taxes already. “It would be just like our government to slide those taxes in [when gas prices are low], and we wouldn’t notice it until they came back up,” said Seymour.
Seymour thinks policy makers should explore other means of funding roads repairs. The state Transportation Department has said it needs $137 million to repair roads and bridges damaged by statewide flooding last October.
One Lexington volunteer thinks lawmakers should spend money they already have to repair roads. Lawmakers should use the state’s approximately $1.3 billion surplus, said Wes Howard.
Many lawmakers, and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, have said they will only support a tax increase if it is offset by tax relief in other areas. Among them is Howard’s senator, Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, whose district extends into Lexington.
Howard disagrees with that approach. “I’m of the opinion that we need zero tax increase,” he said. “Think of all the years they’ve had our money and look at the condition of our roads now.”
Powell said the group won’t support any hike, regardless of a corresponding tax cut. “Any plan that has a gas tax hike, we’re going to consider a hike. Period,” he said. “I haven’t seen a plan that I honestly believe will be a tax cut.”
Powell said the plans he has seen—including Haley’s plan to offset a 10 cents-a-gallon increase with a state income tax cut—increase taxes immediately and string out cuts over a longer period of time. Haley’s plan would raise the gas tax over a period of three years and cut the income tax from seven percent to five percent over 10 years.
The activist group has held three similar events across South Carolina already, with plans to pay more taxes at a Greenville pump within the next couple of weeks.
The state’s gas tax is among the lowest in the nation–16.75 cents per gallon.
What they’re saying (online) about money for roads
“I think any objective look at the situation leads to the unmistakable conclusion that we need to devote more money to SCDOT for the specific purpose of repairing and maintaining roads and bridges. Having said that, I will not vote for a straight-up tax increase. For me, the package must include (1) sufficient funding for SCDOT to do what we all expect SCDOT to do, (2) significant income tax relief for South Carolinians, and (3) substantial reform at SCDOT to ensure more confidence in how decisions are made and who makes those decisions.”
-Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. Sits on a special Senate committee mulling a possible gas tax increase.
“A gas tax hike will help line the pockets of powerful lobbyists and politicians, but it won’t fix our roads. Even though the state government collected $1.2 billion more from us than they budgeted, some politicians still want a gas tax hike.”
-Dave Schwartz, director of South Carolina chapter, Americans for Prosperity.
“House Democrats believe the time for being picky over how we fund our crumbling roads and bridges is over. Whether it is increasing the state’s embarrassingly low gas tax or diversifying our tourism economy through gaming, House Democrats are determined to pass legislation which responsibly address this $30 billion challenge.”
-State House Democratic Legislative Caucus, from their 2015 legislative agenda. This year marks the second year of a two-year legislative session.
“Any legislation that I would consider would have DOT reform and a Personal Income Tax reduction.”
-Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.
“Annual spending on roads and bridges in SC has grown from $1 billion in 2009 to $1.8 billion this year; however, despite this 80% increase in funding, our state’s transportation infrastructure remains in poor condition. Why? Because in recent years the capital outlays for new projects have been more than triple the amount spent on routine maintenance. And so long as spending decisions continue to be made by politically motivated and legislatively controlled state agencies, that inexcusable waste of the taxpayers’ money will continue. Push back hard against anyone who says “only higher gas taxes will fix our roads”.”
-Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.