S. Carolina Governor proposes gas tax hike

Link to article here.

Here’s another Republican daring to propose a gasoline tax hike in South Carolina. She would offset it with an income tax break, but citizens don’t necessarily care for offsets, they want tax reduction. We’re not familiar with how the current state gas tax in South Carolina gets spent, but it’s like Texas and many other states, they need to end diversions of the gas tax to non-road purposes before asking taxpayers to dig deeper.

Traveling Haley route on roads makes sense
January 23, 2015
The Times and Democrat

THE ISSUE: State of the State; OUR OPINION: With governor making proposal, lawmakers should get to work quickly in ironing out details

Identifying the problem is not difficult, but fixing South Carolina roads will be expensive. Gov. Nikki Haley knows it, South Carolina legislators know it and the people of the state should accept the fact.

In outlining her long-awaited plan for infrastructure in Wednesday night’s State of the State address, Haley shifted positions on the gasoline tax but did so with a condition.

She calls for:
* Promoting economic growth by cutting income taxes at all levels by 30 percent over the next 10 years.
* Adding 10 cents to the state’s gas tax over three years, offsetting a portion of the income tax savings with a priority on infrastructure spending.
* Dedicating motor vehicle sales taxes to roads, further diversifying funding streams for transportation.
* Restructuring the South Carolina Department of Transportation and refocusing the agency on maintaining roads as a first priority and doing so in an apolitical way.

Haley states her plan will invest $3.5 billion in roads over 10 years while dedicating almost $5.6 billion in tax relief for South Carolinians.

“This is the real investment in infrastructure that South Carolina needs, and one that doesn’t raise taxes and promotes economic growth,” she said in a prepared statement on the night of the address to lawmakers.

For their part, lawmakers such as new House Speaker Jay Lucas and Sen. Joel Lourie, who gave the Democratic response to the speech, offered praise for the governor and acknowledged her leadership role. While neither directly endorsed her approach on roads, lawmakers would be wise to use her plan as a serious jumping-off point for moving and moving quickly on the infrastructure issue.

The governor has earned the political capital to make her plan a top priority. And with lawmakers making it such, Haley will not be standing in the way of plans that seek a different approach.

The governor has focused on development in her four years in office and can boast of considerable success. But with business leaders such as Zeus Industrial Products CEO John Worley, writing in Thursday’s T&D, stating that road conditions are endangering development, Haley realizes that continued progress depends on action.

Currently, 46 percent of the state’s primary road system is in poor condition and 1,600, or a third of the bridges, are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. South Carolina has the additional challenge of owning the fourth-largest state highway system in the nation.

Next year alone South Carolina is projected to need more than $75 million just to maintain roads in their current condition. In 10 years, the amount will rise to be almost $200 million per year.

In total, the DOT has said it needs an additional $1.5 billion yearly for the next two decades just to bring roads to good condition.

The price tag is high and the timetable is long, but fixing the problem must begin now.

The current 16-cents-per-gallon gas tax has not changed since 1987. With an increase to 26 cents, the tax would still be below neighboring North Carolina’s 37.5 cents and in line with Georgia’s current 26.5 cents. It’s a price that has to be paid and should be supported.