Highway bill approved in South Carolina

| 7/5/2005

The South Carolina Legislature has overridden the governor’s veto of a bill to shuffle road fees and taxes from the state’s general budget to transportation.

In Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto message, he expressed concern about how funding now sent to the general fund would be replaced. Additionally, he said he wanted to hold off on additional funds for the state Transportation Department until the results of an audit of the agency are available early next year.

Lawmakers weren’t in the mood to wait.

Senators voted 36-7 to override the veto after House lawmakers voted 101-3 to do the same.

The new funding will collect about $70 million in the next three years in vehicle and driving-related taxes and divert it for work on secondary roads and for the State Infrastructure Bank, which helps pay for new roads.

Confronted with a nearly $2 billion shortfall in road maintenance a year ago, transportation officials told The Beaufort Gazette that the funding won’t solve the state’s road problems, but is a good first step.

Half of the money from the new law, previously H3296, is earmarked for improvements to secondary roads in the state that don’t qualify for federal funds. The other half will be funneled into the State Infrastructure Bank, likely bonded for up to $380 million in large state projects, the newspaper reported.

A provision added by a Senate panel to require drivers to pay an extra 7 cents per gallon of fuel was dropped from the final version of the legislation. The effort was intended to generate about $200 million in additional revenue for secondary roads.

A shortage of funds forced SCDOT three years ago to stop resurfacing secondary highways, The State newspaper reported.

In addition to the new state funding, the federal government is working to approve a six-year highway bill that likely would mean in excess of $500 million more for South Carolina roads.