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Filing the Governor’s Road Improvement and Tax Reduction Plan

After several weeks of negotiations between House leadership and the Governor to reach a consensus on a plan to fix our roads and bridges, an impasse was reached. This impasse resulted in two bills being filed. Some hope remains for a compromise to be reached as both are heard in the Ways & Means Committee.

H3579 reflects the findings of the bi-partisan transportation study committee appointed by House Speaker Jay Lucas. The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep. Gary Simrill who also chaired the study committee. To date, it has 64 co-sponsors – 44 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

H3580 reflects the provisions outlined by Gov. Nikki Haley in her State of the State address. I am the primary sponsor of this bill. To date, it has 40 co-sponsors – all Republican.

Mr. Simrill’s bill offers good provisions in several areas and I commend the work that he and his bi-partisan committee put into developing it. Having chaired a tax study committee in the past, I can personally attest that he had a difficult task and he has done an admirable job.

Though I support some of the provisions of Mr. Simrill’s bill, I believe that the Governor’s bill offers the three key elements required for a successful plan to pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly and fix our roads:

The bill gives the Governor the authority necessary to restructure DOT – a reform long overdue and a task that cannot happen using a commission structure controlled or influenced by the Legislature.

The bill increases the existing gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over a three-year period. This approach gives DOT the minimum increase in funding needed to bring our existing roads into good repair while DOT restructuring takes place. Future projects will require more revenue, but we should not increase funding beyond what is needed to solve our current crisis until real DOT reform has happened.

The bill offers state income taxpayers substantial tax relief by eliminating the 6% and 7% brackets while shifting the other rates and brackets. This provides real tax relief to all state income tax payers, not just the ones who reach the top brackets. Most importantly, it allows South Carolina workers to enjoy the benefits of our future economic growth by eliminating the tax on their future labor that will contribute to that growth.

And that, my friends, is the key philosophical difference between the two bills. The bi-partisan bill from the bi-partisan study committee offers no tax relief as filed. The bill based on the Governor’s plan offers substantial tax relief. Both bills will now be heard by a bi-partisan budget committee.

Which bill do you think has a better chance of offering taxpayers real relief as road taxes are raised? The Governor’s plan that starts with real tax relief or the bi-partisan bill that ignores it completely?