South Carolina road funds may be tied to DOT reforms

| 10/10/2006

Funding for roads in South Carolina is expected to be a priority for state lawmakers when they return to the capitol next year.

Until then, many state officials and lawmakers want the South Carolina Department of Transportation to make some changes before it gets more money.

Tee Hooper, chairman for SCDOT, said the agency needs more than its $1 billion annual budget, The Associated Press reported. He also said he thinks the department must show it can manage the money it already receives.

“(The DOT) definitely needs more money. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask until we can show that we can appropriately manage funds that we already get,” Hooper told The Greenville News.

Nearly all of the department’s money comes via the federal government or state fuel taxes, which are 16 cents per gallon for diesel and gas. The rate hasn’t increased since 1987.

State DOT officials said this summer that the agency was in a funding crisis. The department’s executive director, Elizabeth Mabry, asked lawmakers to increase annual funding by $1 billion during the next decade.

But Hooper’s claims that agency revenues were being mismanaged led to a state audit, The AP reported. The report from the Legislative Audit Council is due later this year.

A spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford said any increase in DOT funding needs to wait until the report is released and reviewed.