In a measure favored by South Carolina Senate President Hugh Leatherman, 18 of the 27 Republicans who voted opposed moving the proposed fuels tax increase legislation (H-3516) to “special order” this week. Bills set on special order move to the top of the Senate calendar. The legislation recently cleared the Senate Finance Committee by a 14-7 vote.
The special order vote was favored by all 16 Democrats present and by seven Republicans, including Leatherman, Thomas Alexander, Paul Campbell, Ronnie Cromer, Mike Gambrell, Greg Gregory, and Luke Rankin. It fell five votes short of the 2/3 majority needed to move to the top of the Senate calendar.
The Republicans who represent part of Charleston County who opposed the measure include Senators Sean Bennett, Steven Goldfinch, Larry Grooms and Sandy Senn. Republican Chip Campsen from Isle of Palms and Democrats Thomas McElveen and Ronnie Sabb were not present for the vote.
The Republicans who oppose the proposed gas tax increase of 12 cents per gallon over six years have a variety of objections. Some want to see tax decreases in other state taxes which offset the gas tax increase. Others want to see the SC Department of Transportation to be dissolved and have highways under the complete control of the Governor. Sen. Senn is on record as favoring a change in the state highway funding formula to send more money to the counties which send the most gas tax revenue to the state and have the greatest road usage.
Gov. Henry McMaster has stated his opposition to the gas tax increase. If the measure eventually passes on the Senate floor, it would go to a House-Senate conference committee because of a difference in the bills passed by the two chambers. If McMaster issues a veto, it would take 15 Senators to sustain the veto. There are currently two open seats among the 46 Senate districts.