By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
The “off season” in state politics is a popular time for officials to throw ideas around for how to fund needed transportation work. In South Carolina this fall, a possible fuel tax hike is drawing attention.
However, Gov. Nikki Haley has other ideas.
A little more than three months before South Carolina state lawmakers convene the 2012 regular session, Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge has suggested they raise the state’s 16.75-cent-per-gallon fuel tax.
South Carolina’s fuel tax has remained unchanged since 1987. While the state has the fifth-largest system of roads to maintain in the nation, it has the fourth-lowest fuel tax rate.
Without additional revenue from a higher tax St. Onge recently told state senators the agency will not be able to do as much roadwork as necessary.
Money woes at SCDOT have already led to the shutdown of four rest areas in the past 18 months. A presentation made by St. Onge to lawmakers also pointed out the agency has reduced maintenance of commercial truck parking areas.
Gov. Haley threw water on the tax hike idea and instead called for the Department of Transportation to fix internal problems before hitting up truckers and motorists for more money.
The SCDOT has been under scrutiny since it was revealed that the agency was having trouble paying bills. The federal government routed $52 million to the state to help ease the crunch.
Haley has expressed concern about the state DOT’s priorities in deciding which projects get funded. She also has called for reforms at the Transportation Commission. Haley wants the agency to be directly under the governor’s control.
Currently, the agency is controlled by a seven-member board, picked mostly by state lawmakers.
Legislators can take up this once the regular session convenes Jan. 10, 2012.
To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina, click here.
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