The Senate has the two-thirds support necessary to override the governor’s veto on a 12-cents-a-gallon gas tax hike, up from the current 16.75-cent rate.
Senators on Monday passed a House-Senate compromise 32 to 12 to phase in the increase over six years, funneling more than $600 million annually to roads repairs upon full implementation.
Senate president pro tempore, Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence released this statement following the vote–
“This bipartisan vote to approve this bill is an important step forward. This shows that the Senate is speaking with a clear voice in recognizing the need to have a long-term approach toward repairing our infrastructure.
This bill takes the right approach and puts the necessary resources in place to fix our roads, which are the linchpin of our economy and our economic development efforts.”
The compromise includes a provision to let the governor appoint and remove nine members—up from eight—to the Transportation Department’s commission. Those members are subject to varying degrees of approval by the General Assembly. The governor currently appoints only one member to the commission.
The provision falls short of making the agency a true cabinet agency—directly accountable to the governor, without a commission, as a small group of Republican senators previously demanded.
Some of those same senators questioned whether funds would go to improving existing crumbling infrastructure, rather than being funneled through the controversial State Transportation Infrastructure Bank for bonds on new infrastructure. Dubbed a maintenance fee, rather than a tax, Sen. Tom Davis called it a perfect example of “Orwellian naming.”
The Beaufort Republican filibustered the compromise for hours on Monday before senators voted to end the debate.
The compromise repeals a 2013 law that requires the SCDOT to send $50 million annually to the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank.
Also included are increased fees like an increase in the car sales tax cap to $500, up from $300. Out-of-state drivers relocating to South Carolina would also pay a $250 fee for registering a vehicle here.
Several tax credits are also part of the package.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has threatened to veto the bill.