EDITORIAL: Writing themselves off

S.C. lawmakers want to transfer financial burden to locals

February 11, 2014

For a moment, she forgot who she was.

A hard X through “Schr” corrected her memory, and a long line through the heart of New Jersey now answered to the church.

In the grand finale of season two of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” a story set in Atlantic City during the rise of the mob and Prohibition (I recently got sucked into the Soprano-like brilliance), it looked like Margaret Thompson, new wife of Boardwalk boss man Nucky Thompson, was going to sign a deed, originally Nucky’s, back over to the husband. Then, halfway through her signature, she realized the pen was motioning in the direction of her maiden name (Schroeder). Realizing her mistake, she inked it out and continued under her new name. Then Margaret finished this devious deed of hers and named the local Catholic church the beneficiary of the land. Nucky, celebrating out in a deserted cornfield and under the impression that he was again master of the domain that would soon become a major highway, instead looked like a fool who had mastered the art of humiliation.

I’m sure there is some agriculture that surrounds the roads of South Carolina, which is fitting because lawmakers there are looking like they have been taking too many cob blows to the head.

Rep. Brian White, chairman of South Carolina’s House Ways and Means Committee, is encouraging his troops to support an idea to turn a chunk of roads over to local governments. South Carolina has the fourth-largest state-owned highway system at more than 41,000 miles, and the state, which took command of local routes decades ago, also is the proud owner of a massive funding hole that might not have a bottom. It is estimated that almost $50 billion would be needed to make the necessary road repairs over the next two decades. So far, lawmakers have only been able to come up with $19 billion.

Instead of trying to implement a sound, progressive funding formula, South Carolina just wants to transfer some of the debt over to small counties and towns in the hopes that these areas can miraculously start harvesting gold to pay for all of the pavement and bridge upgrades. The locals do not seem to be impressed with the government magic that is about to take place.

“Roads are recurring expenses,” said Robert Croom, deputy counsel for the S.C. Association of Counties. “In this instance, you will have a one-time quick fix maybe, depending on how much money [is provided by the state]. But, in five years, the holes will be there again and you won’t have any money to fix them.”

Yes, South Carolina is offering up these roads with a little bit of cash. The amount is not exactly clear—Gov. Nikki Haley tried to move through a similar idea in 2012 and said $75 million would be set aside—and I am certain those in power are not thinking with clear minds.

South Carolina created this problem because the politicians making the moves wanted the biggest crown possible. Now it has picked all the jewels off the headgear of power, spent all the money and now simply does not know what to do. So the little guy will be left sucking wind from this burden of irresponsibility. Lawmakers of the past were the ones who wanted all of the might, and now the lawmakers of the present need to find a better way to fight. A better solution is out there, and I think what South Carolina needs to do is form a financial partnership with the counties and towns where the state would take on at least 60% of the cost. This way you are not strangling your comrades with a piano wire. It should be a marriage, not a divorce. R&B

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

Recent Blogs

Proper planning at every stage is important for all construction projects, and bridge design is no exception. Perhaps most crucial is the conceptual stage. Using the right tools to test different designs can help reveal the best, most cost-effective choice, ultimately leading to saved time and…
May 24, 2019
Are you ready to blame someone for the collapse of the FIU Bridge? Check out my latest video blog by clicking here. 
August 13, 2018
As for now, enjoy the ride, but in less than two years the economy could be in distress...and the Highway Trust Fund could hit rock bottom. To see latest video blog: click here. 
July 10, 2018
The Florida DOT wants public documents on the FIU pedestrian bridge prior to the collapse blocked from the hands of the Miami Herald. The Florida newspaper wants to see emails, notes, meeting minutes on anything regarding the FIU pedestrian bridge leading up to the day it fell and killed six. A…
June 06, 2018