House votes to send road-funding bill to governor

(WPDE file photo)

A bill that increases South Carolina's gas taxes for the first time in 30 years to fund road construction is poised to become law.

A veto-proof majority in the House approved a compromise that raises the tax by 12 cents over six years to 28.75 cents per gallon. But it provides a way for South Carolina drivers to get the money back during the phase-in.

The 99-20 vote Tuesday sends the bill to Gov. Henry McMaster, who promises to veto it.

But an override is expected. The Senate supported the compromise by a supermajority on Monday.

The bill would eventually raise more than $600 million additional annually for roadwork.

The Legislature hasn't increased any tax since 2010, when it overrode then-Gov. Mark Sanford's veto for a 50-cent-per-pack cigarette tax hike.

Speaker of the House Jay Lucas called the legislation "the most significant infrastructure bill to pass the General Assembly in thirty years."

His full statement says:

Today the House overwhelmingly approved the roads conference report, which is the most significant infrastructure bill to pass the General Assembly in thirty years. This plan provides for the safety of South Carolina families and certainty for the business community. It also includes real reform for the Department of Transportation, dedicates a long-term funding stream for road repair, and offers tax relief for South Carolina drivers.
Three years ago, the House started the roads conversation and continued to persevere because the people of South Carolina gave us the momentum to succeed in this difficult endeavor. Our members knew the General Assembly could send a long-term, sustainable solution to the Governor if legislators put good public policy over petty politics. Although this conference report is not perfect, I could not be more proud of our members for responding to their constituents’ demands. Even though Governor McMaster has issued a veto-threat, I encourage him to consider the magnitude of support behind this issue, change course, and immediately sign this roads bill into law.

Brad Dean, CEO and President of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, released a statement applauding the passage of the bill:

We applaud the decisive action taken this week by the South Carolina House and Senate to invest in our statewide infrastructure. For too long, we have neglected maintenance of our roads and bridges, which impedes economic growth and costs local taxpayers nearly $1,800 annually. While the final legislation is far from perfect, it provides revenues, reform and modest tax relief. We thank the representatives and senators who supported this necessary compromise. Their leadership was a vote for safer roads, more jobs and lower taxes.
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