'Blueprint' for road funding would raise gas tax, generate $600M for roads

'Blueprint' for road funding would raise gas tax, generate $600M for roads

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A new plan to fix South Carolina's crumbling roads would pump new state dollars into road repairs. The plan would create hundreds of millions of dollars, but some of that would come from raising the state's gas tax.

The state's crumbling roads are being blamed for some of the near-thousand highway fatalities last year. So, lawmakers say a new bill is part of a solution.

"Our roads are just in horrible condition all across the state." Bill Ross from the SC Alliance to Fix Our Roads said. "Congestion is horrible. Safety is horrible."

Some drivers agree.

"Yes, they definitely need to be repaired. Like, every morning I'm on the interstate and there is no telling how many potholes I actually have to hit," driver Benjamin Ligons said.

A couple added cents per gallon, over the next five years, is part of what lawmakers call a "blueprint" for fixing state roads. House Bill H.3516, if passed, would be a gradual increase of two cents to South Carolina's gas tax over the course of five years, ending on a 10 cent hike in 2021. Road fix advocates are on board.

"The average cost to a citizen in South Carolina driving on our roads is much greater than any increase in the motor fuel user fee," Ross said.

The bill doesn't stop there. It would increase vehicle registration fees, put a higher fee on hybrid cars, charge a fee for out-of-state truckers, and more. But supporters say safety is worth it.

"Almost a thousand people a year die on our highways and one's too many, but a thousand is a crisis and something has to be done about that," State Rep. Brian White (R-Anderson) said.

White co-sponsored the bill. He says the money it creates annually is necessary to get the work done. He estimates that by 2021, it would bring in $600 million. That's new state funds that would not require paying for fixes out of the general fund.

"So, there's a lot of demand on dollars and we're looking on things that are associated with transportation, associated with roads. That's what needs to be funding roads," White said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation is working on a rural roads safety plan for repairs to lessen fatalities. That plan is estimated to cost $50 million.

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