Talks of suspending the gas tax have circulated at the federal and state levels among candidates and incumbents up for reelection. Meanwhile, leaders on both sides of the aisle have called out the idea of a suspension for what it is – a gimmick.
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, suspending the state’s core revenue source used to repair, maintain, and improve our state’s roads and bridges is not the way to provide relief from record inflation and increasing fuel prices.
Proposals to suspend fees garner applause, likes, and shares, but ARTBA research has shown that any relief from gas tax suspensions is minor – with no guarantee that drivers will pay less to fill up.
Every year since the passage of Act 40 (2017), SCFOR has followed the retail price of gas at the pump on July 1. The price at the pump was consecutively lower than the previous year for five years. It wasn’t until 2021, as the nation was beginning to emerge from the pandemic that the retail price of gas was higher than the previous year.
Sure, it’s only two cents, but it is funny how even after a statutorily required increase occurs, the price at the pump didn’t budge two cents from the day or week before.
With that said, if South Carolina were to suspend the state’s total gas tax, there may be a tinge of relief, but is that relief noticeable – especially as prices continue to fluctuate on a daily/weekly basis? More importantly, is it worth setting the state back?
South Carolina waited 30 years to invest in our transportation infrastructure, and we have made great strides in tackling repairs since the passage of the road funding bill in 2017.
Everyone was thrown a curveball in 2020. South Carolina was fortunate that COVID didn’t set the state back, and the SCDOT was able to keep projects moving forward despite a decline in motor fuel revenue.
Canceling or suspending the state’s core funding mechanism for roads and bridges at such a critical time runs the risk of negating all of the progress to date – and it will bring the plans we’ve heard about for months to accelerate projects and expand upon the state’s 10-year plan to a halt.
Some politicians will use this as an opportunity to garner attention in an election year, while others sincerely want to alleviate the pain at the pump any way they can. The truth is, people still want their roads fixed, bridges repaired, and they are tired of sitting in traffic. ANY loss of revenue would have an adverse impact on the state’s ability to address these issues.
The pain at the pump is real. No one knows just how high prices will climb or how long this will last, which is why we cannot hold infrastructure hostage to factors beyond our control.
The best way to provide relief to South Carolinians is through sound public policies in the form of tax reductions and rebates that provide direct relief and benefit citizens long-term.