February 7, 2017 5:30 PM, EST

New S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster Calls Gas Tax Hike a 'Last Resort,' House GOP Says

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News
As South Carolina lawmakers weigh raising the gas tax, Gov. Henry McMaster urged them to see any tax hike as a “last resort,” according to several Republicans he addressed.

McMaster spoke to Republican House members Feb. 7 at their private lunch.

"He was not for any tax increase at all, made that real clear,” state Rep. Ralph Norman (R-York) told The State after the meeting.

The governor “talked about the gas tax being a last resort, that raising taxes should always be a last resort,” said Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville).

Sworn in two weeks ago after Gov. Nikki Haley resigned to join the Trump administration, McMaster has not weighed in on whether he would support raising the gas tax to help pay for road improvements.

McMaster’s directive to lawmakers Feb. 7 could force the House to revise a roads plan it is weighing.

That plan would raise the gas tax 10 cents over five years. It also would raise some driving fees that pay for road repairs. But it contains no tax cuts for S.C. residents.

Haley proposed a gas tax increase with a far greater income tax cut that would have resulted in a net tax reduction for S.C. taxpayers. Lawmakers rejected that plan.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R-York) said his takeaway was McMaster was aware of the House’s roads proposal and was monitoring the bill’s progress.

"What he is saying is really what the constituents are saying," he said. "Make sure we've looked at every alternative; make sure we're using the money efficiently. If we've looked at all of that, and we're still at a gas tax, we may be at that last resort."