Two House bills would suspend the gas tax

Two recently filed House bills would temporarily suspend the state gas tax and lesser known “road tax”. The former is paid by all drivers in South Carolina, and currently accounts for an extra 26 cents per gallon at the pump; the latter is a separate 26 cent tax which only applies to motor carriers like semi-trailer trucks and buses. Both will increase by 2 cents this summer (unless legislation were to pass).

H.5103 would suspend the taxes for one year, while H.5112 takes a more complicated approach, lifting them until the average price of gas per gallon in South Carolina is less than $3.25. Once gas prices fall below that arbitrary number, the second bill would start to reinstate both taxes.

There’s a strong case in favor of suspending the gas tax. Earlier this month, the national average price of gas reached an all-time high, surpassing prices reached during the 2008 recession. Cutting that down by 26 cents would save drivers plenty of money after just a few weeks. The longer the cut, the more money drivers will save.

Moreover, the state Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund, which receives a portion of the gas tax and other vehicle fees and taxes to pay for road projects, had a balance surpassing $1 billion as of the end of February, according to state comptroller general records. And that doesn’t include the collective billions the state Department of Transportation will receive in new federal funds over the next several years for infrastructure.

If there were ever a time to lift the gas tax, it’s evidently now. Lawmakers will need to act quickly, however. Any bill that fails to pass at least one chamber by April 10 (which falls on a Sunday, so the true date is April 8) is effectively dead for the year. This is known as the crossover deadline.

We would urge that any piece of legislation suspending the gas tax not be dependent on the price of gas. This should seem obvious, but gas prices can fluctuate daily, and the price could easily drop below the set amount, triggering the taxes to return, and go back up. At a minimum, they should be suspended for one year, though given the current road funding surplus, a longer period of time should be considered.

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