Charleston Chamber pushes ahead on gas tax increase - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Charleston Chamber pushes ahead on gas tax increase

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is moving ahead with its controversial plan to raise the state gas tax. Members say the increase is crucial to care for the roadways.

Finding money to fix and improve local highways is an ongoing struggle.  That's why a lot of local business leaders think raising the gas tax for the first time in decades will solve the problem.  But others say doing that isn't the answer.

"We have opposed raising the gas tax until the state commits to prioritizing our road investment needs," said Dana Beach.

The executive director of the Coastal Conservation League admits local roads need attention, but he isn't a fan of fixing them by paying more at the pump.

"Simply giving the [Department of Transportation] more money does not mean that money will be spent on projects that are important. And it will in fact be wasted and we've seen that repeatedly throughout the last three decades in South Carolina," said Beach.

"We've got 1,900 bridges in South Carolina that are failing, and we've got to find money to fix these roads and bridges," said Mary Graham.

Graham is the senior vice president of business advocacy for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. 

She says upgrading local and state roads is a priority for attracting new business. That's why she and the chamber are working to convince lawmakers to bump up the gas tax. They believe even a ten-cent hike would make a difference.

"We know that increases in taxes are not necessarily popular. But we believe that if people in South Carolina know that that funding will go directly and specifically for road infrastructure, that they would support that," said Graham.

But opponents like Beach don't trust the Department of Transportation with extra money.

"That process is a completely politically driven process. And until that changes, we shouldn't give them a dime more," said Beach.

One thing both sides can agree on is that this is an election year, and the chance of any tax going up in 2014 is slim.

On Feb. 4, Gov. Nikki Haley told chamber members she opposes raising the gas tax. She says there's enough money in the budget to pay for highway improvements.

  • Bill Burr

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