ROADS/BRIDGES: SC transportation panel sees it a bit differently than state governor

Jan. 28, 2015

Six months’ study make recommendations for fixing state’s roads and bridges

Last week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley put forth a set of proposals aimed at addressing the state’s widespread roads and bridges deterioration in light of concomitant funding limitations. In short, the governor’s plan advises a 10-cent raise in the gasoline tax over the next three years, in conjunction with a 2% lowering of the state’s income tax from 7% to 5% over the next ten years. Moreover, Haley called for a reorganization of the state’s Department of Transportation; she has threatened to veto any put-forth measure that aligns with the gas tax increase but eschews the other portions of her plan.

Haley’s spokeswoman, Chaney Adams was quoted as saying the governor “respects the good work of the committee, but thinks a straight-out tax increase is not the best way to go. She remains confident that a meeting of the minds will take place to both address our roads needs and help our economic competitiveness.”

In response to the governor’s proposals, the House Transportation Infrastructure and Management Ad Hoc Committeeis prepared to file, today, a bill recommending alternate measures based on its findings following six months of studying various “fixes” to the state’s infrastructure troubles. The bill, expected to be filed by Rep. Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill), will recommend reducing the state’s 16.74-cents-per-gallon gas tax alongside an increase in the sales tax of wholesale gasoline. The bill will further institute a ceiling on fluctuating gas prices and phase in the transfer of ownership and maintenance of state-owned roads to their respective counties.

Rep. Russell Ott (D-St. Matthews), a member of the studying panel, has said that voting in favor of the committee’s proposal instead of adopting Haley’s plan is an indication that “we’re not moving forward, at least as an ad hoc committee, with the proposal put forth by Gov. Haley. I feel like if this group up here supported Haley’s plan, they would’ve made a motion to adopt, as an ad hoc committee, Gov. Haley’s plan. [But] we didn’t do that. We just went a different direction.”

In light of the panel’s action, multiple proposals from the House, Senate and the governor for raising the estimated $400 million per year necessary to keep roads and bridges from further deterioration are expected.

Despite the looming confrontation in session, Simrill stressed that the House wants to work with both Haley and the Senate, insisting a separate bill may well be filed to address Haley’s income tax reform proposal. “We have the same goal of infrastructure repair in South Carolina,” Simrill said. “It’s that massive of an issue that we have to all work together. [Haley] added the goal to that of income tax reduction. That goal is laudable.”

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