S.C. senators gave new life Thursday to a proposal to raise the state’s gas tax and other driving fees to pay to repair the state’s crumbling roads, before leaving Columbia.
The priority spot that senators gave the bill Thursday means that when senators return to Columbia on April 18, after a week off, they will be in a position to start debate on the proposal.
The procedural move, which did not require a vote, comes after 18 Senate Republicans refused to give the bill priority status last week. Those senators voted against starting debate because the current proposal increases taxes but offers no offsetting income tax cuts.
But senators have been working behind the scenes to reach a compromise, said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. “We think it’s important to have a debate about the bill.”
Despite the bill’s priority status, it still could take several days of debate before the Senate votes on the proposal — if they vote at all.
A previous proposal to increase the state’s gas tax to pay for road repairs was in a similar priority spot for about a year in the Senate. That proposal was filibustered by state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and defeated.
Time is running out for the Senate to act on a road-repair bill this year. When lawmakers return to Columbia later this month, there will be only 12 legislative days left in this year’s regular session.