An overwhelming majority of drivers Friday said they understand and support South Carolina’s 2-cents-on-the-gallon gas tax increase going in effect July 1.
“I think it’s a good idea as long as it’s going to roads,” Brian Lamberson of York County said Friday morning while fueling up in Lake Wylie.
Lamberson said state roads are in “horrible shape.”
“A couple-cent tax here and there is not gonna kill ya over what it costs to repair a car,” he said. “It’s just got to get done.”
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South Carolina is among five states increasing gasoline taxes starting Saturday. The gas tax increase will top out at 12-cents-on-the-gallon in five years, eventually rising to 28.75 cents per gallon in 2022. It will raise roughly $630 million a year to repair state roads.
The first increase of 2 cents per gallon raises the tax to 18.75 cents per gallon for the next fiscal year, July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. To help quell concerns, South Carolina lawmakers also expanded several tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Two-Wage Earner Credit, Tuition Credit, and the Manufacturing Property Tax Exemption, said Tax Foundation policy analyst Morgan Scarboro.
“As part of an infrastructure bill adopted this year, South Carolina's gas tax will increase for the first time in 30 years,” Scarboro said.
The state gas tax – currently the nation’s third-lowest – will rise by 2 cents a gallon Saturday, to 18.75 cents, under a law approved in May over Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto. It’s the first increment of a 12-cent hike over six years.
Other pieces of South Carolina’s law taking effect Saturday include a $200 increase in the sales tax cap on vehicles. That means anyone who buys a vehicle, boat or plane worth at least $10,000 will pay $500 in sales taxes. And people moving to South Carolina will be required to pay a one-time, $250 fee to newly register their vehicle bought in another state.
Once fully phased in, the law is expected to raise more than $600 million annually for roadwork. This first year, it’s expected to generate less than $180 million, according to estimates by the state’s fiscal affairs office.
That’s far less than the $1.1 billion annually over 25 years the DOT said it needed to bring the entire network to good condition.
Department of Transportation officials have adopted a 10-year rebuilding plan with the money.
Like Lamberson, the majority of drivers at gas stations along the state line shrugged off paying the higher gas tax at the pump in South Carolina.
“Two cents is nothing compared to what you get in Charlotte,” said Claude Guezodje, who said he fills up weekly when he comes through South Carolina to work.
Karen King of Gastonia, N.C., said although it adds at least 15 minutes to her morning commute to drive through Lake Wylie to get to work in Charlotte, “it’s worth it because gas is a lot less expensive here.”
King said she fills up the tank about twice a week, and the savings add up. The 2-cent increase won’t deter her, so long as it remains much cheaper than North Carolina.
“We’ve enjoyed it for as long as we can,” she said of the historic low prices. “It really makes sense it’s going up.”
On Friday, gas prices along the South Carolina border in Lake Wylie and Fort Mill Township ranged from $1.75 to $1.82 per gallon. Across the state line in Charlotte’s Steele Creek area, prices ranged from $1.99 to $2.05. According to gasbuddy.com/, the average North Carolina price was $2.08 on Friday, while South Carolina was $1.89. The national average was $2.26.
Drivers at the tanks Friday said fixing South Carolina’s roads is imperative.
“Paying 12 cents year over year, it’s gonna be a lot of money, but if it’s going to help the roads then I don’t really mind,” said Matthew Nance of Clover, “because the roads in South Carolina are a lot worse than North Carolina.”
The Associated Press contributed
Catherine Muccigrosso: 803-329-4069