Is SC speeding down the road to a gas tax hike? - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Is SC speeding down the road to a gas tax hike?

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Lately when you head to the pump, low prices leave your wallet feeling a little heavier. Then, as you drive dirt roads and hit potholes, you again feel the result of those low prices, leading to a big debate - what's more important paying less at the pump or improving our roads?

About a third of our highways are in poor or mediocre condition, which can impact your safety when you drive. The state needs money to fix the problem but in order to get that cash, South Carolinians may be looking at paying a little more when filling up at the pump.

Opposing views are not uncommon with the proposal of a gas tax hike. Legislators want to come to an agreement once and for all.

WMBF News spoke with Senator Greg Hembree, who is working with other leaders previewing major issues to bring up when they get back in session. A large part of the agenda, in January, will be dedicated to road funding.

While legislators are struggling with an answer to fixing our roads, an increase in the gas tax is on the list of ideas along with possibly increasing drivers license fees.

The bottom line, Hembree says, we need to fix our roads, and he's not the only one who said if we don't fix the problem now, we'll end up with a more expensive issue.

Representatives with AAA and The South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads said both organizations are on board with a gas tax increase, if it will improve our roads; however, this money would not be enough to fix our roads, it would just be a start.

In order for SCDOT to fix and maintain our roads, we're looking at about $1.5 billion a year, according to the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads.

The Executive Director of SCFOR, Bill Ross, feels improving our roads is critical for tourism, economic development and safety. Ross said a gas tax hike could be the answer.

Leaders with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce are not worried about the impact of a tax increase to tourism.

In a statement, Chamber President Brad Dean said: “We do not anticipate an impact from a potential gas tax hike. The Myrtle Beach area is regularly lauded for the value and affordability it offers visitors on any budget. Tourists look at lodging rates and the price of attractions when planning to visit the Myrtle Beach area, and they see they get plenty of bang for their buck. The Myrtle Beach area's gas prices, however, have little, if any, impact on a tourist's propensity to travel here. The fuel prices that impact any travel decisions they make are based on what they pay at the pump in their local communities.”

We haven't seen a gas tax increase in 27 years, according to AAA, which is a big reason why our prices remain low. As far as prices go, right now, South Carolina has the lowest at an average of $2.63, and AAA expects prices to drop some more through the end of the year.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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