McMaster threatens to veto gas tax increase, instead floats $1 billion bond

Updated: Apr. 4, 2017 at 3:48 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster has threatened to veto any bill increasing gas taxes to help pay for roads and infrastructure needs for the state in a letter to the Speaker of the House.

In the letter, McMaster instead suggests using a bond bill being debated in the house, which would be used for higher education, facilities repair, and other agencies, be used to fix the state's deteriorating roads.

McMaster says that bill is "very important, but not urgent" and that it should instead be used as a vehicle to fix roads for up to $1 billion.

"Understanding that our need for road repair has gone from important to critical to urgent, I believe that this should be our top priority for spending," McMaster said.

The governor also criticized a potential gas tax increase being floated and debated by the state House of Representatives and the Senate.

House Speaker Jay Lucas responded to the letter in a statement, saying McMaster's proposal is not a permanent solution.

"Governor McMaster's proposal continues the pattern of placing the costs of road repair solely on the South Carolina taxpayer and not on out-of-state motorists who use and deteriorate our crumbling roads," Lucas said. "Borrowing more money to fix South Carolina's roads and bridges will not serve as a permanent solution to our infrastructure crisis. The House passed our roads bill with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto-proof majority, which protects the South Carolina taxpayer by providing a sustainable funding stream that requires every motorist to pay their fair share."

Other House members spoke out against the bond plan.

"But we've had enough politics when it comes to roads," Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said. "What we need now is for men and women who are here, people need us to do our jobs. Just pass the bill, make a start and get some things done."

"I mean, at what point are we going to be so far behind that we can't make up the difference? I mean timing is crucial at this point," Rep. Gary Simrill said. "So, every option needs to be on the table."

The roads bill in its current form hit a major roadblock last week when the Senate voted against opening up debate on the bill. That version of the bill would raise the gas tax by 12 cents over the next six years.

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