Week 1 of Senate gas tax debate closes without compromise


Debating a blueprint for fixing South Carolina’s crumbling roads, Senators have yet to strike a compromise on the bill to raise the gas tax. After one week of long discussion, there is no agreement.

The clock is ticking over the Senate; there are now nine days left in this legislative session to pass the bill this year.

After Thursday’s discourse, Republicans are accused of obstructing H. 3516, the bill to raise the gas tax over a span six years in 2-cent increments. Democrats are disgruntled over amendments attempted to be tacked on.

“Some form of government is wanting to take more money away from them. Where will it ever end?” Sen. Tom Corbin (R- Greenville) said

Corbin also argued against more gas tax without other tax cuts.

Some Republicans have tried to insert broad income tax cuts into the bill, income tax credits for drivers whose vehicles are registered in-state and have proposed abolishing the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank.

“I was hoping after yesterday, what we have seen and what we have heard, we would have gotten past all of that,” Sen. John Scott (D- Richland) said of the lengthy debate. “I’m pretty sure the folks at the ballot box are going to have a lot to say if we don’t fix these roads by the time we get to 2018.”

But Republicans contend it’s all in a plan to wear down senators to vote on tweaking the bill into a piece that has enough votes to themselves to survive the Governor’s promised veto.

“I’m not interested in making noise, I’m interested in making good policy for the people of South Carolina, and sometimes that takes a little bit of work,” Sen. Larry Grooms (R- Berkeley) said.

Governor Henry McMaster again pledged a veto on Thursday, listing the conditions on which he would not veto a bill: “If it provides for reform for the Department of Transportation, the State Infrastructure Bank does not raise any taxes, and that would be fine with me right there. If someone wants to reduce another tax, that would be fine with me as well.”

“Once folks start to understand the political reality of where we are and what needs to be in the bill, there will eventually be enough support and I’m predicting 30 to 31 votes for passage,” Grooms said.

The debate resumes Tuesday and it’s possible it could run into Friday and the weekend.

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