Less than one month after South Carolina introduced toll legislation, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has sent a letter of opposition to the senator behind the bill.
On May 2, OOIDA Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek reached out to Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, regarding bill S780. If passed, the legislation will expand South Carolina’s tolling authority.
Introduced on April 23 by Hutto, the bill would allow the South Carolina Department of Transportation to finance highway and bridge projects with tolls. Eligible projects include new highways, new lanes added to existing highways, the reconstruction of noninterstate highways, the reconstruction of interstate highways where federal law allows tolling, the reconstruction or replacement of bridges or tunnels, and capital improvements to existing toll facilities.
Essentially, S780 will allow the state to pursue toll financing on any new or existing highway and bridge project, subject to existing and future federal limitations. Although specific projects are not mentioned in the bill, OOIDA and some local media outlets believe the purpose of the bill is to allow SCDOT to move forward with a tolling plan on Interstate 95.
Assuming that to be the case, Matousek says the sole purpose of an I-95 toll is to get out-of-state motorists to help foot the bill for the state.
“In other words, the state is likely to impose a toll on those who are unable to hold elected officials accountable in the election process,” Matousek says in the letter.
Matousek informed Sen. Hutto that OOIDA supports equitable investments in transportation infrastructure. However, he also noted that there is nothing equitable about selling public roadways or rights-of-way to the highest bidder.
OOIDA encourages South Carolina lawmakers to consider reasonable increases to the state’s excise tax on gas and diesel. South Carolina has one of the lowest excise fuel tax in the nation, with the 10th lowest diesel tax and the 12th lowest gasoline tax, both at 20.75 cents.
Matousek said tolls are “incredibly expensive to administer, usually disproportionately targets truckers, lacks adequate transparency, and is simply bad public policy.”
OOIDA has more than 3,000 members who reside in South Carolina and thousands more who regularly operate on South Carolina roadways.
Sen. Hutto told WTOC-TV that it is unfair for South Carolina taxpayers to pay for I-95 improvements, more or less confirming suspicions that the bill was intended for the project. WTOC reports that proposed tolls would begin in Jasper County and move north on I-95, with tolls near Lake Marion and Pee Dee.
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