Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointed directors of the state’s transportation, tourism and commerce agencies praised her plan to lower income taxes while raising the gas tax.
“A major tax cut will bring a lot of attention to our state,” said S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, standing with Haley Wednesday during a press conference called by the governor’s office to discuss her plan.
Haley wants to lower the state’s highest income tax rate to 5 percent from 7 percent over a decade, while increasing the state’s gas tax by 10 cents in three years.
Democratic Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said in response to Haley’s news conference that so far, her plan – which benefits the few wealthiest S.C. taxpayers while increasing what poorer people pay at the pump – has not been given serious consideration by lawmakers.
Companies and businesses, he said, “expected there to be a real, meaningful plan” to address the state’s transportation needs.
But Hitt said neighboring states with lower income tax rates – Georgia at 6 percent and North Carolina at 5.75 percent – have a competitive advantage over South Carolina.
Haley said a lower income tax would spur growth.
“When you reduce or don’t have income tax, investment comes, business comes, people come,” she said.
Janet Oakley, whom Haley appointed to run the Department of Transportation last April, and Duane Parrish, the governor’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, also touted Haley’s plan.
Oakley said Haley’s plan would produce nearly $400 million a year to “move to a preservation strategy” for roads, allowing the state to repair its most heavily traveled roads and bridges.
Oakley said the $1.5 billion her predecessor said was needed to get the roads to good condition includes "a lot of pieces that, quite honestly, are part of the large list of wants,” such as new interchanges and highway expansions.
Oakley told a group of business leaders earlier this month that $400 million would “arrest the further decay” of the state’s highway system, leaving “only 29 percent of our people driving on good roads,” the Associated Press reported.