Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Time is running out for this year's legislative session at the State House. A vote on the proposed roads bill is top priority in the Senate.
At the beginning of Wednesday's session, the Senate voted 21-17 to adopt the version of the roads bill, from the finance committee, that would increase the gas tax by 12 cents over the next six years. Slightly different from the House's vote to increase the gas tax by 10 cents over the next five years.
However, the bill faces several amendments. One amendment, introduced by Senator Sean Bennett, would give income tax breaks.
"Broad based income tax reductions for everyone, an additional targeted income tax reductions for middle class and lower income folks," says Sen. Bennett, R-Dorchester. "Workers who are trying to do the right thing."
Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen says Sen. Bennett's amendment hijacks the roads bill.
"Right now we're seeing probably the death of the roads bill in South Carolina," says Sen. Sheheen, D-Kershaw. "It's being attempted to be turned into an income tax bill, who care more about cutting income taxes of the wealthy than fixing the roads of South Carolina."
Sen. Bennett's amendment, which was carried over, would create more than $200 million in income tax cuts.
"I think there's some concern about the pressure it puts on general fund dollars later on," says Sen. Bennett. "As I mentioned in my comments, I'm not as concerned about that."
Sen. Bennett says tax reform and reform of the SC Department of Transportation must be included in order for the bill to pass.
"It's clear to me and it's been clear to me for three years now that a straight up gas tax increase, while it may have enough votes to pass both bodies, does not have enough votes to survive a governors veto."
Governor Henry McMaster has said that he will not sign a bill that includes a gas tax increase. Some senators believe that amendments to the bill could be a compromise.
So far, four amendments have been debated. The Senate stopped debate at 7pm on Wednesday. They will return on Thursday at 10am.
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