Gov hopeful Cunningham would suspend South Carolina gas tax

Nov 15, 2021, 5:23 AM | Updated: 9:53 am

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As pandemic-related supply shortages drive gas prices to record highs across the country, a Democrat seeking to become South Carolina’s next governor is suggesting a temporary halt of the state’s gas tax as a way to alleviate cost burdens at the pump.

Joe Cunningham previewed his proposal in an interview with The Associated Press, saying he’d utilize federal relief aid and the state’s budget surplus to keep tax-funded infrastructure projects on track.

A suspension would also require approval from a Republican-controlled Legislature that’s technically out of session until January — and which overwhelmingly passed the tax in the first place, more than four years ago, with bipartisan support. Cunningham argued that lawmakers’ adjournment allows them to return to Columbia to debate any measure related to the pandemic.

“We’ve got to get creative on how we lessen the burden on South Carolina families,” Cunningham told the AP. “This is a no brainer.”

South Carolina currently has a gas tax of just more than a quarter per gallon, part of a multiyear phase-in of a law passed by formidable majorities in 2017. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster fulfilled his pledge to veto any increase, but lawmakers in both chambers combined to overturn that move by more than 80%.

Cunningham said his suspension could save South Carolina drivers about $5 for each fill-up of a 20-gallon (75-liter) tank. The former one-term congressman, who planned to roll out his proposal later Monday, said his plan would last through the fiscal year, which ends June 30, about two weeks after the state’s primary elections.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline decreased by a penny last week to $3.41, according to the AAA, but the agency warned that consumer prices would likely stay high as long as oil prices remain higher than $80 per barrel.

South Carolina’s per-gallon gas price had one of the largest over-the-week decreases, dropping two cents, to $3.14 for a gallon of regular. According to AAA, that’s still 10 cents higher than a month ago, and up from $1.90 at this time last year.

The gas tax had been debated for decades before finally becoming law as a way to fund billions in infrastructure projects.

To pay for the tax shortfall while keeping those efforts on track, Cunningham said he’d propose using federal pandemic relief money, as well as some state funding.

South Carolina’s Board of Economic Advisers said last week that state lawmakers would have nearly $1 billion more to spend this budget year than expected, thanks to a quick recovery from the economic shock of the pandemic, and people spending money much faster than experts predicted.

The windfall boosts the money controlled by the General Assembly to nearly $11 billion, not counting the roughly $3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money coming to South Carolina.

House and Senate leaders have not officially called lawmakers back to either chamber before January’s session convenes. The window on such a move is tightening, although it’s still possible.

Cunningham, who will face other fellow Democrats in next June’s primary, has been focusing his campaign thus far on McMaster, who is seeking his second full term in office. Like Nikki Haley before him, McMaster was vehement in his opposition to efforts to raise the gas tax.

“South Carolina is a great place – and you deserve better than this,” he said, in an online video explaining his veto.

On Monday, McMaster’s campaign manager laid blame for climbing gas prices at the foot of Democratic President Joe Biden, whom Cunningham supported.

“The governor vetoed the increase on gas taxes, so he’s clearly not in favor of them — but let’s be clear here: since Joe Biden took office the average price of gasoline in this country has increased by more than a full dollar,” Mark Knoop told AP. “Joe Cunningham’s friends have created this problem, and he’s certainly not capable of fixing it.”

Asked if he felt McMaster and other Republicans would support his proposal, Cunningham said the tax cut should transcend partisanship.

“The question in my mind isn’t why would we do it; it’s why should we not do it,” Cunningham said. “McMaster’s administration has been bankrupt on solutions.”


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Russia temporarily pulls out of weapons inspection treaty

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday that Moscow was temporarily withdrawing from the inspection regime established under a key bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty between it and the U.S. In a statement on its website, the ministry said Western sanctions made it impossible for Russia to enforce the New START Treaty “in strict […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for September delivery rose $1.75 to $90.76 a barrel Monday. Brent crude for October delivery rose $1.73 to $96.65 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for September delivery rose 3 cents to $2.89 a gallon. September heating oil fell 4 cents to $3.18 a gallon. September natural gas fell 47 cents to $7.59 […]
13 hours ago
FILE - A giant tarp, bottom,  covers a section of rubble where search and rescue personnel have bee...
Associated Press

Judge: property sale will pay fallen Florida condo’s taxes

Money from the sale of Florida beachfront property where a collapsed condominium tower once stood will be used to pay property taxes of the destroyed units, a judge ordered Monday. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said in a brief ruling that the 2022 tax payments should not be deducted from the $96 million previously earmarked […]
13 hours ago
FILE - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a ne...
Associated Press

Lawyer: Giuliani won’t testify Tuesday in Ga. election probe

ATLANTA (AP) — Rudy Giuliani will not appear as scheduled Tuesday before a special grand jury in Atlanta that’s investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to interfere in the 2020 general election in Georgia, his lawyer said. A judge last month had ordered Giuliani, a Trump lawyer and former New York […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

US obtains warrant to seize $90M jet of Russian oligarch

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge authorized the United States on Monday to seize a $90 million jet belonging to a Russian oligarch in a continuing effort to diminish the financial pillars of the Russian government after its invasion of Ukraine. The effort to seize Andrei Skoch’s private plane, an Airbus A319-100, was part of […]
13 hours ago
Former actress Jennette McCurdy, author of the memoir "I'm Glad My Mom Died," poses for a portrait,...
Associated Press

Jennette McCurdy rises above childhood trauma with new book

Jennette McCurdy is well-aware the title of her new book, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” (Simon & Schuster) is attention-grabbing. She also readily admits that she means every word. “It’s something that I mean sincerely, I’m not saying it to be flippant.” McCurdy, who co-starred in Nickelodeon shows “iCarly” with Miranda Cosgrove and its spin-off […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Gov hopeful Cunningham would suspend South Carolina gas tax