Charleston area business organizations support gas tax hike to fix S.C. roads

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) and other area business organizations are calling on state senators to pass the gas tax bill that would generate money to fix roads across the state.

In the press conference on Friday the CMCC was joined by the Economic Leadership Council, Berkeley Chamber,
Charleston Regional Development Alliance, Trident CEO Council, local business leaders and public officials.

They are sending a message that the time is now to pass the bill.

If passed, the bill would raise the gas tax by two cents per gallon every year for six years, totaling a 12 cent raise. 

The bill could provide $600 to $800 million each year for road projects in the state.

Felicia Holmes learned to drive on South Carolina roads and she supports road improvements.

"It's just horrible, they come and do this construction and it doesn't get any better," Holmes said.

Holmes' pocket book has felt the effects.

"I had a car that blew out my air conditioning twice because they put down plates without even putting signs up to let us know how bad the roads are," she said.

That's just one reason why the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and area business leaders are pleading for road improvement funding.

Patrick Bryant is the chairman for the CMCC.

"We need sustainable re-occurring funding and we need it this year," he said.

Time is running out in the legislative session for senators to reach a compromise on the gas tax bill.

State Representative Katie Arrington says road funding is her greatest concern for the state. She represents District 94, the Summerville area. 

"We are in a crisis point so either we do something in the next two weeks or we should all go home ashamed of ourselves," Arrington said.

She says people are better off paying the gas tax "than getting a flat tire that they don't have any insurance to pay for, the rock through the windshield
and God forbid one of our children can't get to a hospital or a loved one in time because their are traffic delays."

Charleston Metro Chamber President and CEO Bryan Derreberry says this is the third year in a row that local business leaders are pushing for funding.

Business leaders say this funding plays a role in businesses remaining economically competitive.

"It's not only an issue of safety, they have to get their employees to and from work," Derreberry said. "They have to get out of their facility and when they can't do that it costs money and that money gets passed a long to every consumer so we need to be responsible as a state and tackle the issue,"

While some drivers like Joshua Sloan think the roads are fine.

"Overall it's not too bad," Sloan said.

Others believe the tax might be the only way for change.

"I don't know if I'll support it, but at this point if it helps the roads we might have to," Holmes said.

South Carolina has one of the lowest gas taxes in country. It's currently at about 17 cents. The gas tax has been same for the last 30 years.

Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce official say 43 percent of local Charleston area roads are in poor to mediocre condition. They also released the following statistics:

  • S.C. drivers will pay an extra $300 million as roads worsen
  • S.C. will miss out on $171 million in road money from out-of-state drivers
  • S.C. drivers will continue to pay $1+ billion more in vehicle repair costs
  • More than 975 people will die

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