The full S.C. Senate could begin debating increasing the state’s 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax as soon as next week.
A special panel of senators began discussing a proposal Tuesday to increase the state’s driving fees, including a 10-cents-a-gallon gas-tax hike. The added money would go to repair the state’s crumbling roads.
Subcommittee co-chairman Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, said senators could get the proposal to the Senate floor by Tuesday. That would allow the road-repair debate to take place before senators consider the state’s general fund budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, he said.
However, some state senators are expected to filibuster that proposal. Opponents and supporters also are expected to unleash lobbying efforts to sway the Senate, where a gas-tax hike was blocked the past two years.
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The S.C. House-passed bill, which the Senate panel is considering, would increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over five years.
Phasing in the tax is important so that road contractors have time to prepare for more work, said roads chief Christy Hall. Hall cautioned against a rapid infusion of road-repair money, saying it would drive up construction costs.
After the state agreed to borrow last year to spend more money repairing its roads, asphalt companies, which had closed in the aftermath of the Great Recession, are reopening facilities, hiring workers and getting equipment ready to add crews.
The special Senate panel will meet again Wednesday to continue discussing the House bill.