COLUMBIA — South Carolina drivers are set to ring in the new year with higher prices for registering their cars.
While the first of the six annual 2-cent per gallon gas-tax increases started in July, other elements of the roads bill passed by the Legislature in May take effect with the onset of 2018.
Beginning Monday, the vehicle registration fee will increase by $16. For passenger cars, the hike brings the registration cost up to $40 for drivers under the age of 65.
For drivers 65 and older, it goes to $36.
Other increases include for drivers of electric cars, who will face a new biennial road use fee of $120, while hybrid car drivers will need to fork over $60 every two years beginning in 2018.
New fees for out-of-state truckers are set to take effect in January 2019.
Advocates say the new costs represent some of the ways South Carolina can diversify funding sources for transportation improvements.
“If you look country-wide, most states are having to go in that direction as they look for various ways to address the funding issue, and that’s just part of it,” said Bill Ross, president of the S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads.
Ross said some of the new costs ensure that all South Carolina drivers are chipping in for road maintenance even if they don't spend as much on gas.
"The roads are deteriorating because of all users, so you need to make sure you're spreading the responsibility around," he said.
The 2018 tax year will also mark the first time South Carolina drivers can utilize a refundable tax credit that allows them to recoup extra taxes paid at the pump and for money spent on car repairs.
Gas fill-ups and vehicle maintenance costs can be itemized when drivers fill out their tax returns due in April 2019.
The package of changes came about after years of unsuccessful efforts in the Statehouse to pass a gas tax increase amid cries of crumbling highways and bridges. It became law after the Legislature overrode Gov. Henry McMaster's veto of the roads bill in May.
The measure is forecast to bolster funding for state roadwork by more than $600 million a year once all the increases in driver fees are phased in.
Transportation officials are planning to use revenue from the bill to work on priority infrastructure projects, including resurfacing roads, replacing bridges and widening Interstate 526.