Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Governor Henry McMaster says he will veto any bill approving a gas tax increase on South Carolina drivers.
On Tuesday morning, Gov. McMaster sent a letter to the South Carolina House of Representatives saying:
“I do not believe the answer requires the government to increase taxes on our people or to continue to accommodate the outdated and unaccountable decision-making process imposed and abetted by law, policy and politics through the conflicting interactions of the Department of Transportation, the department’s commission and the State Infrastructure Bank.”
In March, the House passed a gas tax increase of two cents per year for the next five years. Governor McMaster wants the house to borrow the money instead.
“The fact that we would borrow the funding to pay back on a later date is somewhat problematic,” says House Majority Leader Rep. Gary Simrill.
Rep. Simrill says borrowing funds to fix roads is not the right answer.
“The question is, what do we do,” says Rep. Simrill. “The house has obviously passed a bill 3516, it's in the senate. It has reform, it has a funding component to it, and it captures out of state revenue. The unfortunate part of borrowing as South Carolinians is that not only will we have to pay it back, but our children and grandchildren will.”
Democratic Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter says she was disappointed that Gov McMaster has asked the house to approve a bond bill for roads funding.
“Quite frankly that's why we are where we are because we have refused, over the last several years to dedicate a source of revenue to fix our roads,” says Rep. Cobb-Hunter.
The bond bill in the house is supposed to provide funding to higher education, repair of facilities and other state agencies. Something that Senator Tom Davis says can wait.
“When you’re looking at what our state priorities are, he's saying that roads are a higher priority than university and college buildings,” says the republican Senator from Beaufort County. “He's right about that, it is a higher priority and I think it is a more pressing need. Where I disagree with the governor is he says let's handle restructuring later. Just the way I'm thinking about it, you've got to go ahead and fix the way existing dollars are being spent before you talk about spending the people's money even further, whether it's existing resources or raising the gas tax.”
Governor McMaster says health, criminal justice and facilities repairs and maintenance are important for the state, but none as urgent as the safety of the roads. He believes taking out a loan for the state will help.