Supporters of a higher gas tax were unfazed Thursday by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s statement that he would oppose a tax increase to fix the state’s crumbling roads.
Asked for reaction, House Speaker Jay Lucas’ office referred to the Darlington Republican’s previous statement, issued after a 10-cent-a-gallon tax hike passed the House, 97-18.
“Fixing South Carolina’s dangerous roads and bridges should be the greatest priority,” Lucas said then. “Refusing to compromise will not solve our roads problem, but simply places politics above responsible public policy.”
Others, too, still are hopeful a gas-tax hike will become law.
The S.C. Chamber of Commerce, for example, supports a higher gas tax, saying better roads will be a boon to economic development.
“Nothing’s changed in our view,” said Ted Pitts, the chamber’s chief executive, adding a gas tax should pass by a legislative “supermajority because it has become that big of an issue for the people of South Carolina.”
“This needs to be addressed in 2017,” Pitts said.
The head of the pro-gas-tax-hike S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads agreed.
“The fact is SCDOT revenues are not keeping pace with inflation, which has affected their ability to fix our roads,” said alliance president Bill Ross. “We hope the governor will continue to study solutions to fix our roads and work with (the) Legislature on passing a comprehensive roads bill this year.”
McMaster said Wednesday that “raising taxes is ... not the answer in this case.”
McMaster’s statement came a week after the S.C. House approved a 10-cent-a-gallon gas-tax increase that would raise an estimated $600 million a year for road repairs.
A Senate panel Wednesday passed a plan calling for an even larger gas-tax hike — 12 cents a gallon — that would raise $800 million a year.
The S.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers of Kansas, Thursday applauded McMaster’s opposition to a tax hike.
“It is encouraging to see Governor McMaster take a stand for taxpayers in South Carolina,” Daniel Brennan, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement. “The governor is putting the needs of taxpayers over the desires of special interests ... and that is something we applaud.”
Brennan hopes McMaster will go further, threatening to veto a tax increase.