South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is once again filibustering to block a plan to fix state roads. The Senate ended the year last June with Sen. Davis filibustering a roads plan.
The new plan in the Senate would raise the gas tax by 4 cents a year for three years, as well as raise some other fees. After five years, the plan would bring in more than $700 million more for roads. It would also cut taxes, including state income taxes and property taxes for small businesses.
But Sen. Davis says there’s no need for a tax hike because the state has a $1.3 billion surplus to work with, $750 million of which is money that will be there every year. “We can take care of our roads and bridges with existing resources,” he says. Other senators say that additional money is needed for other things, like improving schools.
Sen. Davis says the DOT Commission and State Infrastructure Bank should be restructured. “We need to get away from the politically-influenced way in which decisions are made on how to spend that money,” he says.
Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, is the co-sponsor of the compromise plan being considered. He says raising the gas tax is a good way to bring in needed money for roads, since truckers and tourists will pay it. “The gasoline that your person uses while they’re driving to Florida, driving to Hilton Head, going to Myrtle Beach, shouldn’t they help pay for the roads?”
Even though the total amount that would be brought in by the tax and fee increases is more than the tax cuts the plan proposes, he says once you factor in that out-of-state drivers would pay a large part of the tax increases, the average South Carolinian would come out ahead.
The plan also includes DOT reform.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, says even though lawmakers have now been back at work for six weeks and don’t have a roads plan, it’s too soon for senators to vote to make Sen. Davis sit down.
“I think it’s time well spent listening to him,” he says, pointing out that, when Sen. Davis was filibustering last year, lawmakers didn’t know about the $1.3 billion surplus. “If it gets tedious and superfluous, as we call it, then we may look at it, but right now I think he’s giving us some information that we need.”
He says it’ll be weeks before it’s even possible to pass a roads plan. Whenever Sen. Davis ends his filibuster, or senators vote to end it, there are more than 300 amendments to the bill that senators will have to debate.