Gas tax could be hiked to benefit S.C. roads and bridges

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Sep. 27, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Aiken Driving Academy instructor Steve Deibel is on the road a lot.

"We have two locations in Aiken and North Augusta, so we spend a good bit of our day on the roads around Aiken and North Augusta," Deibel says.

But sometimes, the ride is pretty bumpy, and it's not the student driver's fault.

"That's what we joke about with our students," Deibel says. "I can tell you where all the holes, and bumps, and bad areas of the roads are pretty much anywhere in Aiken County."

As state lawmakers in Columbia consider increasing the Motor Fuel User Fee, or gas tax, to fix roads and bridges, Deibel says he'll welcome the increase.

"As long as I know that money's going to improving our roads from an engineering standpoint as well as a condition standpoint, I'm all in favor of it," he says, admitting that it's probably not a popular opinion.

"I've been bringing this issue up in order to get feedback from the constituents that I represent," adds State Senator Tom Young (R-Aiken), who has brought up the proposed hike in several speaking engagements recently.

Sen. Young doesn't know if he'll vote for the tax, but he's considering it. He says a recent study by the South Carolina Department of Transportation's Transportation Infrastructure Task Force found the state infrastructure needs $29.3 billion in improvements. With just a couple extra pennies per gallon of gasoline, Young says the state could start making big changes.

"Every cent that the gas tax in South Carolina is increased generates approximately $37 million more in revenue," he says.

At Curgin's Corner gas station along Jefferson Davis Highway in Aiken County, Jack Scott isn't convinced.

"They don't need no more money," he says. "They need to control the money that they been getting."

However, Sen. Young says bordering states already have a higher gas tax. He says Georgia's is around 28 cents a gallon. North Carolina's is 37.5 cents. South Carolina's is just 16.75 cents per gallon of gasoline.

"Even if we did something along the lines we're talking about, you're still going to be paying more per gallon in Georgia and North Carolina than you would be paying in South Carolina," Sen. Young says.

Young says the proposal is by no means final. He hopes to hear from more of his constituents. Representative Bill Hixon (R-North Augusta) also says the option should be looked at, however, he too hasn't said if he'd vote for the increase.

The bill was introduced last session. Sen. Young says lawmakers should look at the issue again during the next session which begins in January.

Sen. Young says the current bill would only raise the tax per gallon by four cents at the most over the course of ten years.

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