Pursuit of road dollars advances in South Carolina

| 5/6/2005

A bill that would divert existing road-related taxes and fees to a highway maintenance fund passed the South Carolina House April 27.

Sponsored by Rep. Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, the bill would raise about $70 million annually to fix state highways, which transportation officials say are in a maintenance crisis.

The money – including driver’s license and vehicle registration fees – now pays for general state activities. Harrell said the general funds would be replaced.

“All we are trying to do is put the money where it ought to be,” Harrell told The State newspaper.

A shortage of funds forced the South Carolina Department of Transportation three years ago to stop resurfacing secondary highways. The state has a $560 million annual shortfall for maintenance, the newspaper reported.

Currently, transportation funds come almost entirely from the state’s 16-cent-a-gallon fuel tax, which is among the lowest in the nation. The tax rate was last changed in 1989.

Harrell said the maintenance trust fund could be a better option that raising taxes or fees.

H3296 has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.