COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — The South Carolina House Ways and Means Committee passed the House roads bill Thursday afternoon by a vote of 20 to zero. That sends the bill to the full House floor for a vote.
The bill would raise the state’s 16.75 cents-per-gallon gas tax by a total of ten cents. The tax, or “road user fee,” would go up by two cents a year for five years.
Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, main sponsor of the bill, says he’s heard from plenty of people who don’t want a tax increase. He tells them that the state’s gas tax hasn’t gone up since 1987. “If you were still making today the same wage that you made in 1987, 30 years ago, you probably would not be a happy camper. The deal is we are operating DOT under 1987 dollars in 2017, and then we ask ourselves why our roads look like they do,” he told the committee.
Committee chairman Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, agreed. “If you only had your 1987 income, all you had to work on, inflation’s gone up, your house, your car and everything else would probably look like our roads. I mean, it would be crumbling down on you.”
Other members of the committee said they’ve also heard from constituents who think the problem isn’t that the SCDOT doesn’t have enough money, it’s that the agency is mismanaged or is wasting money. But Rep. Simrill said the Legislative Audit Council did a major audit of the SCDOT last year and found no major problems. “There was no smoking gun, if you will. There was nothing that was one large item within DOT. However, there were certainly things within DOT that needed correcting from that LAC audit. Secretary Hall set immediately to start correcting those measures,” he said.
He also pointed out that the bill includes setting up a new trust fund so that all of the new money raised by the gas tax increase would go into a “lock box” that could only be used on roads, not on anything else like DOT salaries.