Last night, South Carolina legislators were successful in their vote to override Governor Henry McMaster’s veto of an infrastructure bill that will repair roads and bridges throughout the state. Under the terms of the bill, the state’s gas tax will go up two cents per year for the next six years resulting in an additional $600 million in road funds.
The bill will also raise sales tax on vehicles sold in South Carolina from three percent to five percent. Car registration fees will jump to $500.
Some rebates are available for drivers registered in South Carolina.
Both the bill and the vote to override created significant controversy in Columbia. Supporters of the bill and the vote say that the money is necessary to repair crumbling infrastructure that has been neglected for years. Opponents – primarily anti-tax ideologues – bristled at the idea of paying an additional $0.12 cents over the next six years to cover the cost of repairs.
Governor McMaster, who is up for election in 2018, has said that raising taxes to pay for the public interest should be a last resort. He has asked President Trump for $5 billion to replace roads and bridges in South Carolina and also floated the idea of borrowing money to make the repairs. In a statement on the veto, the Governor said that he had a “policy disagreement” with the legislature.
After the vote, South Carolina Senator Tom Davis released a statement that hit all sides of the issue simultaneously criticizing the bill, the override and the veto. To wit:
The General Assembly was given a rare opportunity to fix our state’s infrastructure funding system instead of simply asking taxpayers for more money, yet it chose overwhelmingly not to do so. I’m disappointed that we squandered this opportunity. As I said several times during the debate on the Senate floor, I’m less concerned about the tax increases in H. 3516 (although I oppose them) than I am the failure to reform an expenditure process that blatantly skews political.
I’m also disappointed in Gov. Henry McMaster for what can fairly be described as a “drive-by veto.” Not only did he fail to try and any build support for his gas-tax veto – I’ve yet to hear of even one instance where he met with a legislator to try and garner support for having his veto sustained – he did not provide those of us willing to fight for taxpayers with the chance to do so in his absence; he simply “checked the box” by vetoing the bill as quickly as possible and returning it to the General Assembly for an equally quick override, even though I and other reform-minded legislators asked him to delay issuing his veto so that we had a full two weeks to rally support for it being sustained.
Several states are currently considering gas tax increases to fund infrastructure repairs in lieu of a federal infrastructure spending package.