Democrats railed against Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday for offering a plan to fix the state’s roads that she only would support if lawmakers side with her on two other potentially divisive issues.
In her State of the State address, Haley said she would support increasing the state’s gas tax by 10 cents over three years, under two conditions.
Those conditions – a 2 percentage point cut in the state income tax to 5 percent over 10 years and reforming the state’s Transportation Department – will “easily kill any effort to (address) the roads issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.
“The state has a roads problem and needs a roads plan,” Setzler said. “We need to address it straight up.”
Democrats also questioned whether Haley’s plan would mean lost money to pay for other state programs.
“I'm a little concerned that we may be robbing Paul and Peter to pay Patrick,” said state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland. Cutting the income tax by 2 percentage points is taking away “general fund money that we're going to need to fund education, to fund teachers salaries (and) to fund health care.”
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said Haley’s roads plan was “no plan at all” and would result in a net loss of revenue for the state.
“I don’t know how she’s doing her math. I’m confused, and I don’t know how that’s going to fix a single road.”
To Haley’s credit, Democrats said they were happy to see the Republican governor put a gas-tax increase back on the table after threatening to veto any hike while running for re-election.
“At least we have part of a plan” to discuss, said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, adding the two conditions that Haley tied to gas tax hike will be “very challenging.”