SC lawmakers talking raising gas tax for roads

York County, SC - YORK COUNTY, SC (WMBF/WBTV) - Drivers in South Carolina pay some of the lowest prices in the nation, in part because the state's gasoline tax is 16.8 cents per gallon. But the Palmetto State isn't collecting enough money to take care of its roads.

"If my tank will hold it I'll stop here and top off," said Joe Summerville, who lives in North Carolina, but travels to South Carolina for business.

Summerville buys his fuel in South Carolina because of its cheaper rate.

South Carolina's gas tax, which helps pay for road maintenance, hasn't seen an increase since 1987.

SCDOT says this past winter weather caused a lot of damage to roads, creating more potholes across the state, and some people are asking officials to raise the gas tax to fix roads.

Last month, the York County Council petitioned the state to do just that.

"Even the Department of Transportation is saying, 'Yes, we need to,'" said State Rep. Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill). "I think there's that voice saying, 'Yes, let's raise taxes.'"

Simrill says now is not the time to talk about raising taxes.

"What I'm telling you is the consumer, the taxpayer can't take it right now," Simrill said.

So the debate boils down to one question: Would people rather have cheaper gas or smoother roads.

"You know, in some places the roads are bad, but right now I think people want cheaper gas," said Fort Mill resident Mike Bowles.

Another Fort Miller resident, Randy McInnis, added, "It's a wide spectrum. I'd say cheaper gas. The roads don't seem to be too bad at this point in time."

Summerville says he would change his mind if South Carolina raised prices at the pump, and thinks there are more North Carolinians like him.

"I'll quit stopping here because there's no sense doing it," Summerville commented. "I'll support my own state then."

AAA says the average price of a gallon of gas is $2.63 in South Carolina; in North Carolina, it's $2.76 a gallon. Drivers in Charlotte are paying $2.75 a gallon right now.

Copyright 2010 WMBF. All rights reserved. WBTV contributed to this report.