Clock ticks, window of opportunity narrows for gas tax bill's ch - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Clock ticks, window of opportunity narrows for gas tax bill's chance this year

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The window of opportunity to fix South Carolina roads is narrowing as lawmakers have yet to pass a road funding bill. 

After talking about a fix for three years, the fate of crumbling roads is in the hands of six lawmakers, meeting to try to agree on the gas tax bill. 

How long will constituents, South Carolina drivers, wait for an answer on fixing roads? There’s no answer to just how long lawmakers will meet to strike an agreement on a bill.

“That’s the question of you know, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop? It’s very difficult to know," Rep. Gary Simrill (R- York) said. 

The one bill still has two distinct versions, a House version, and a Senate version: 

  • The House version would increase the gas tax by 2 cents per gallon over 5 years, eventually putting a 10 cent per gallon tax hike at the pumps.
  • The Senate version would increase the gas tax by 2 cents per gallon in six years, eventually putting a 12 cent per gallon tax hike at the pumps.
  • The House would not increase fees on driver’s licenses, but the Senate would increase the fee for an 8-year license to $40.
  • The House caps vehicle sales tax for in-state drivers at $500 and $250 for out of state drivers, the Senate caps it at $600 and charges out of state $600.

Also, the House offers no tax credits in its roads bill version; the Senate offers several:

  • There would be a rebate available for in-state drivers who claim vehicle maintenance costs on their income tax forms, to make up for the added gas tax they pay.
  • Up to $150 million would be set aside for this credit, to be held for those who claim the rebate; that’s money that would not go to roads. 
  • There are other tax credits also offered for married, joint income tax filers, for college students who do not get certain scholarships, and also some cuts to business’s property tax price.

“If this bill were implemented, it takes money away from roads. It doesn’t give money to roads," Simrill said. 

“It’s critical for the bill to become law," Sen. Larry Grooms (R- Berkeley) said. 

A committee made up of three senators, Vincent Sheheen, Ross Turner, and Paul Campbell, and three representatives, Gary Simrill, Brian White, and Todd Rutherford, meet to try to merge versions of the bill again at 10 a.m. on Friday. 

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