Why South Carolina can't pass a gas tax increase

It's an idea that keeps coming up year after year... raising South Carolina's gas tax. It's the fourth-lowest gas tax in the country.

Mike Wooten, who represents our area on the state's Department of Transportation, says most state lawmakers know a gas tax increase is needed. But, they won't vote for it because their political opponents will use it against them in the next election.

So, despite support from many groups and state agencies, raising the tax is an uphill battle.

South Carolina will fall far short of what it needs to pay for repairing its roads over the next 20 years, according to Tracie Lawrence, with AAA Motor Club.

"South Carolina is at about a $30 billion deficit with the taxes and with the ability to take care of the road system. So, we're really overdue for this increase."

South Carolina's 16 cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn't gone up since 1987, when the price of gas was less than a dollar a gallon.

Along with AAA, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a gas tax increase, the South Carolina Trucking Association, and various members of the South Carolina Transportation Commission.

Robert Hollenbach, a Myrtle Beach taxi cab owner, says people are struggling right now and the tax should be left alone. As for how to fix the state's roads?

"That's why we hire all the Congressmen and everybody to do that job. To figure it out," Hollenbach said.

But, it's tough for lawmakers in South Carolina to raise any tax in South Carolina, according to Lawrence. "We have unemployment issues, we have different issues there, and we like keeping our taxes as one of the lower tax bases in the U.S."

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler has proposed taxing out-of-state commercial truckers and using some of the sales tax on cars for road repairs. Because, he said, there's no chance of a gas tax increase passing any time soon.