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 http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, speaks during a game of bridge follo...
Associated Press

Buffett’s successor buys nearly $70M of Berkshire stock

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire Warren Buffett’s successor bought nearly $70 million worth of stock in the conglomerate he is slated to one day lead. Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Greg Abel on Monday disclosed buying 168 Class A shares in the company in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The purchases made last […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Task force urges safety improvements for stretch limos

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Stretch limousines, like the one involved in a 2018 wreck that killed 20 people, should be equipped with side-impact protection devices and taken off the road if they are more than 10 years old, according to a New York task force convened to study safety problems with the oversized vehicles. The […]
17 hours ago
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Wilmington, N.C. (AP Ph...
Associated Press

Trump files $475 million defamation lawsuit against CNN

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Monday sued CNN, seeking $475 million in damages, saying the network had defamed him in an effort to short-circuit any future political campaign. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focuses primarily on the term “The Big Lie” about Trump’s false claims […]
17 hours ago
Wayne County Elections Director Anne Risku prepares absentee ballots at the Wayne County Board of E...
Associated Press

Judge denies GOP appeal for signature checks on mail ballots

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s State Board of Elections directed county election officials on Monday not to engage in signature matching when reviewing absentee ballot envelopes this fall after a judge rejected the GOP appeal of a state board ruling prohibiting the practice. According to a directive sent to county election directors from the […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge: ITG is liable for Florida tobacco settlement payments

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Cigarette manufacturer ITG Brands assumed liability for tobacco settlement payments to the state of Florida when it acquired four brands from Reynolds American in 2015, a Delaware judge has ruled. Vice Chancellor Lori Will ruled Friday that, as a result, ITG must compensate Reynolds American for losses due, granting summary judgment […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Panel rejects $1M payouts to inmates given vaccine overdoses

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A state board on Monday rejected claims for $1 million payments for 52 prison inmates who were given six times the proper dose of COVID-19 vaccines last year. The three-member State Appeals Board, which considers state legal financial obligations, unanimously denied the claims from inmates who received the extra doses […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Gov hopeful Cunningham would suspend South Carolina gas tax