Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Senate wrapped up their first week of debate on the roads bill. Senators have said that this is the top priority for the legislative session.
For the past three years there has not been a permanent fix to the growing roads problem. The current bill up for vote would increase the gas tax by twelve cents over the next six years.
However, Senator Larry Grooms says a bill with just a gas tax will not get the votes necessary to pass. He says income tax reform and restructuring of the SC Department of Transportation need to be added.
"I think it takes all three of those elements to be able to build a bi-partisan coalition, that will then advance a bill to the House that will stick with that bill through conference committee and even stand up to the governor, should there be a veto, and override it," says Sen. Grooms, R-Berkley.
Senate Democrats have been pushing to get a clean gas tax roads bill.
"Restructuring right now is not the most important thing," says Sen. John Scott, D-Richland. "What's really important is can we generate $800 million a year so that we can fix a roughly $38-40 billion problem."
There are nine days left in the legislative session. While the debate doesn't seem to end any time soon, Senators are optimistic that a roads bill will pass before the end of the session.
"I think it would be a failure for the South Carolina Senate to go home this summer without a roads bill," says Sen. Grooms. "We were at this same point last year and we passed a bill that put some money to our roads and made some DOT reforms, but it wasn't a permanent solution. This year we're back to getting to a permanent solution and I think we're closer than we've ever been."
"There are a lot of us who have been wanting to have this debate for a number or years," says Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter. "Those of us who have wanted to do something meaningful to fix our roads and our bridges across this state for a number of years and now we've got a better chance of doing it since I've been here."
More than 30 amendments are up for debate. The Senate will return on Tuesday at 11:45am.
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