Struggling to come up with solutions to help pay for needed road and bridge work throughout the state, legislators in South Carolina discussed bills that would take different paths to solve the state’s funding crisis.
The House voted 90-10 to approve legislation that would use sales taxes paid on vehicles to help pay for building and repairing the state’s roadways. That money now goes to the general fund.
Eventually, the measure would route more than $100 million annually to the state’s Department of Transportation and the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. That money would help pay the debt on a future $1 billion bond issue.
Supporters say it would help support roads and bridges without raising taxes.
The bill – H4549 – has moved to the Senate Finance Committee where its future is uncertain. While lawmakers recognize that funding for transportation is needed, the panel is looking for ways to cope with slumping revenue forecasts.
That predicament contributed to the demise of a separate effort to create a transportation maintenance fund. The bill – S892 – sought to send 2 percent of revenue from the state’s general fund to the new fund.
Another failed option would have taken the toll route to ease the state’s funding crisis.
The South Carolina DOT would have been required to collect tolls at one location along Interstate 95. The measure – S972 – would have authorized toll collection where the roadway crosses Lake Marion in either Orangeburg County or Clarendon County.
Advocates for alternative sources of funding cite less federal funding is available to states. Others say the state’s 16-cent-per-gallon fuel tax is among the lowest in the nation.
Opponents say the state would be better served to spend its money smarter. Simply charging higher tax rates or putting tolls on roadways won’t solve the larger problem of wasteful spending, they say.
To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina in 2008, click here.