This week, the South Carolina House of Representatives, for the third consecutive year, passed an infrastructure bill that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fix our state's deplorable roads and bridges.
By an overwhelming vote of 97-18, the Republican-controlled House gave its okay to raising the state's gas tax by 10 cents gradually over the next five years.
The bill now heads to the Senate where, in 2016, your elected senators failed to pass any bill that would provide a recurring funding mechanism for the state's highway system – a system, according to Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall, that is in "crisis."
House Majority Leader, State Rep. Gary Simrill, said costs are mounting each year. "This is the year to get something done. I mean, we have waited three years since the last time we took up just the measure of what to do, realizing the number of lives that have been lost on our highways, and looking at the cost of doing nothing? It's $380 million a year in further deterioration."
The WIS Editorial Board agrees. Our roads and bridges continue to fall apart each day. The safety of all drivers continues to be compromised by these crumbling roads. It's going to cost at least $8 billion to repair the state's poor roads.
Opponents argue the SCDOT commission hasn't yet realized enough reform to guarantee funding will spent wisely and with transparency. The commission's chair said this week that it has complied with 75 percent of a legislative audit and vows to provide transparency and accountability. We hope that's true.
Others argue placing an additional tax on drivers is not fair.
As we have pointed out repeatedly over the last two years of this debate, South Carolina's 16.75 gas tax is third-lowest in the nation and hasn't been increased since the 80's. Our neighbors to the north and south have much higher gas taxes, and roads in much better condition. This single point is truly the main ingredient to our future in South Carolina on this issue. And it is critically vital for our lawmakers to embrace the 10 cent hike!
To put a gas tax hike into perspective, a driver with a 15-gallon tank would pay an additional $1.50 per fill-up, which would end up being about $72.00 per year. That's less than the cost of a most new tires. And up to 35 percent of the money raised through a gas tax would come from the pockets of out-of-state drivers. Why not tax them for their fair share?
Senators, for the sake of those who elected you, put South Carolina's roads and bridges on a path of recovery.
That's my take, what's yours?