South Carolina lawmaker calls for fuel tax hike

| 9/18/2006

If a key senator in South Carolina gets his way, truckers and other drivers in the state would have to pay a dime more per gallon in taxes at the fuel pump.

State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he will push to increase the state’s 16-cent-per-gallon fuel tax to 26 cents. He said the added revenue is needed because the state cannot pay for new roads and repairs.

“It’s long overdue, our highway system is falling apart,” Leatherman told The Myrtle Beach Sun News.

The proposal follows a new traffic report that says South Carolina needs about 1,900 new lane-miles to reduce congestion and meet future needs. The work has a price tag of about $4.9 billion.

Leatherman said he will propose legislation to increase the tax rate, which would bring in about $300 million annually, The Sun News reported.

The revenue would be split three ways with portions earmarked for secondary roads, the state Infrastructure Bank and the state’s general fund.

The effort to nearly double the state’s fuel tax rate likely would be met with stiff opposition. Some of Leatherman’s fellow Republicans, who are the majority party in the state, have pledged to not add new taxes.

Rep. Richard Clark, R-Hilton Head, said he’d rather tap into the state’s $171.5 million surplus to pay for roadwork, The Sun News reported. If that isn’t possible, Clark said he would strongly consider supporting a fuel tax increase.