South Carolina bill would add interstate lanes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, January 05, 2015

If a South Carolina state lawmaker gets his way, hundreds of millions of dollars of funds would be made available to add interstate lanes around the state.

Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia, has filed a bill for consideration during the upcoming regular session that would create the Interstate Lane Expansion Fund in the State Infrastructure Bank. Specifically, the bill would use about $60 million annually from vehicle sales taxes to finance constructing new lanes on existing interstates.

Funds could not be used to construct new interstates.

Until 2013, the tax money from vehicle sales was routed entirely to the state’s general fund. Since then, half of the money is used for major work and also for secondary road projects, which aren’t eligible for federal money. Setzler’s plan is to claim the remaining half for lane expansion.

Setzler is one of many state lawmakers who are expected to pursue additional transportation revenue during the five-month session that begins Jan. 13. The lawmakers are acting after the South Carolina Transportation Commission released a projection that the state will need to spend $60 billion during the next 25 years for road work.

State revenues over that time period are estimated to be $28 billion.

In addition to Setzler’s plan, other ideas that could be considered include raising existing driver’s license fees, raising user fees on alternative fuel vehicles, and increasing taxes on out-of-state truck drivers.

Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to offer her own road plan before the end of this month. In the past, she has opposed increasing the state’s 16-cent fuel tax rate to raise new revenue. The tax at the pump, which hasn’t increased since 1987, raises about $500 million annually.

Setzler’s bill, S2, awaits consideration in the Senate Finance Committee.

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