COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The chairman of the South Carolina DOT Commission says state lawmakers should raise the state gas tax next year by 20 cents a gallon to give the agency a stable source of income to improve roads. Mike Wooten said Wednesday, “Pass legislation that will increase the gas tax a nickel a year over four years, so that we could plan for that, then our industry partners and the contractors can plan with us to get to that point.”

South Carolina’s gas tax is currently 16.75 cents a gallon, third lowest in the nation. It hasn’t been raised since 1987. State lawmakers refused to raise the tax this year as they debated how to pay for the state’s road and bridge needs, with opponents saying the DOT gets plenty of money but needs to spend it on fixing current roads instead of building new ones.

SCDOT secretary Christy Hall agrees, saying the agency needs to focus on its priorities and spending the new money it’s getting this year. State lawmakers took more than $200 million out of the general fund budget and gave it to the DOT, to use to borrow up to $4 billion for roads. Hall says, “It really wouldn’t make a lot of sense to generate a significant amount of income if it weren’t being deployed in a correct manner.”

But she says if lawmakers were to raise the gas tax and bring in more money, it would speed up the process of improving state roads and bridges. Lawmakers go back into session in January.