Gov. Henry McMaster said in a letter to House Speaker Lucas that he plans to veto a gas tax increase

Citing a recent Greenville News article on the state's roads needs, he wants the House to use a bond bill that had been planned for higher education for road repairs instead.

"Understanding that our need for road repair has gone from important to critical to urgent, I believe this should be our top priority for spending," he wrote in a letter to Lucas. "Our state has many important needs in health, education, criminal justice and facilities repair and maintenance, but none are as urgent as the commerce and safety directly linked to our roads."

Citing a Legislative Audit Council report and a recent story on road conditions and funding by The News, McMaster said the state has neglected primary roads over the years in favor of work on interstates and local roads.

The governor said he does not believe the solution to the problem requires an increase in taxes or to continue "to accommodate the outdated and unaccountable decision-making processes imposed and abetted by law, policy and politics through the conflicting interactions of the Department of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."

"We could hardly design a more inefficient system," he wrote. "If all the $600 million raised by the current gas tax had been going to roads instead of being diverted to other government functions, we would not need to find more money now."

McMaster urged the House to amend a bond bill aimed at higher education and facility repairs to be used instead for road needs, saying it could send as much as $1 billion to state roads.

A road-funding plan passed earlier this year by the House would provide almost $600 million more a year for roads when fully implemented through an increase in the gas tax of 10 cents per gallon over five years and the creation or increase of various fees.

The Senate Finance Committee has amended that plan with a proposal that would increase the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon over six years and index it for inflation, in addition to creating and increasing various fees. A vote last week to give the bill priority status on the Senate calendar failed after Republicans complained the bill does not address DOT governance reform and talks are ongoing in a search for a compromise.

McMaster wrote today that he will veto any bill to increase the gas tax.

"Revenue from an amended bond bill, added to that of last year's bond bill, can accommodate the critical shortfall we now face and help launch us on the road to recovery," he wrote. "With the alarm bells silent, we can address the serious questions of reform, accountability and long-range planning."