The SC Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill to raise the state fuels tax 12 cents per gallon over a six-year period. The full House called for a 10 cents per gallon increase on Mar. 1 by a veto-proof 97-18 margin. Both chambers have also called for increasing the cap on car sales taxes and levying fees on hybrid vehicles and electric cars. Gov. Henry McMaster has expressed opposition to the tax increases. The state fuels tax currently stands at 16 cents per gallon.
The bill now advances to the full Senate, where it will be debated and amendments may be proposed. Some Republican Senators want to see the fuels tax increase coupled with reductions in the state’s personal income tax. Others want to see SC Dept. of Transportation (SCDOT) restructured as part of the legislation.
Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis has derailed attempts to increase the fuels tax in previous years through filibuster tactics and plans to do so again when the legislation goes to the Senate floor this month. Davis wants to dissolve the SCDOT and give the Governor’s Transportation Secretary total control of managing the state highway system. There are currently highway commissioners from each of the state’s seven Congressional Districts who get to approve road projects. Davis also wants to eliminate the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, citing that it gives too much control over new road projects to the Senate President and Speaker of the House.
There is separate legislation to dissolve the SCDOT in the Senate (S-301), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey. The measure has not yet received a hearing.
If the Senate fuels tax increase legislation passes, a House-Senate conference committee would be selected to resolve differences in legislation. The conference bill would then need clear both chambers before being sent to Gov. McMaster. If McMaster vetoes the legislation, it would take 16 of the state’s 46 Senators to sustain the veto. Republicans maintain a 28-18 majority in the Senate.