Cunningham renews call for temporary suspension of state gas tax, McMaster responds

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 10:42 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2022 at 6:17 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham is again calling for the state’s General Assembly to temporarily suspend the state gas tax.

The move, Cunningham says, would help South Carolinians with the recent spike in gas prices.

“Gas prices are out of control for a variety of reasons and it’s time for South Carolina to take action to help families save money at the tank,” Cunningham said. “By suspending the gas tax and supplementing the lost revenue with American Rescue Plan funds or money from the state’s budget surplus, we can ease the financial burden on South Carolinians without delaying or jeopardizing a single infrastructure project.”

South Carolina has the 36th-highest gas tax in the nation at 26 cents per gallon.

READ MORE: Average price for a gallon of gas in US hits a record $4.17

Cunningham originally called for the gas tax suspension back in November, when gas prices hit a 7-year high.

Cunningham’s campaign says that with gas tank capacities ranging from 10 gallons in smaller vehicles to more than 30 gallons in larger pick-up trucks, suspending the gas tax would save a driver approximately $5 on each fill-up of a 20-gallon tank.

“The General Assembly could do this tomorrow. It’s time to stop the blame game and focus on actually solving the problem at hand. This is a common-sense step that will benefit every single South Carolinian,” Cunningham said. “I hope they will set politics aside and provide some much-needed relief to South Carolina families.”

Revenue from the gas tax goes to the state’s Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund used to maintain and repair state roads. The state gas tax increase enacted in 2017 is being phased in two cents per year for six years through 2022.

McMaster campaign calls for different solution

Gov. Henry McMaster’s campaign released a statement Tuesday in response to Cunningham’s call for the gas tax suspension.

“First, the governor vetoed the gas tax increase when it was passed by the legislature,” McMaster Campaign Manager Mark Knoop said. “Second, South Carolinians are facing record prices at the pump because Joe Biden and his liberal allies have shut down the production of American energy and purposefully increased our dependence on foreign energy. There is a real solution to this problem - removing Biden’s ban on new oil and gas development on federal lands, building the Keystone XL pipeline, and reinstating regulatory reforms to streamline energy permitting, to start - but Joe Cunningham won’t support them because he cares more about alienating his far-left base than protecting South Carolinians from the whims of despots and dictators.”

State Transportation Secretary Christy Hall released a statement in November when Cunningham first proposed the temporary suspension of the gas tax and the backfiling of the $612 million void that suspension would cause with other funds appropriated by the state legislature.

She said there was a “major misconception” that projects can be kept on track and with a “simple funding exchange.” But Hall said the delay the legislative process would require to complete such an appropriation would result in months with no funding.

“This proposal would derail that state’s efforts to improve and upgrade our infrastructure by introducing a major cash flow crunch into a program that was designed through many years of debate and discussion by the state’s policymakers,” Hall said in November. “The state currently has $3.4 Billion in road work happening all across the Palmetto state and is set to continue to advance much more over the next year.”

Cunningham represented South Carolina’s First Congressional District for a single term before being defeated by current Congresswoman Nancy Mace in 2020.

He is running to unseat incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster. Gary Votour, Mia McLeod, Mindy Steele, William Williams, and James Smith are also running to be the Palmetto State’s next governor.

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