South Carolina lawmakers on verge of road funding solution

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, May 26, 2016

A boost to road funding in South Carolina could soon become a reality.

The House voted 102-3 on Tuesday, May 24, to advance an amended bill that avoids new taxes or fees to pay for highway projects. Specifically, the bill relies on borrowing $2 billion over the next 10 years to get road and bridge work done.

One project highlighted for completion is Malfunction Junction. The massive project is intended to alleviate congestion problems at the convergence of Interstate 20 and 26 in Columbia.

Attention would also be given to eliminating load-restricted bridges on state secondary roads.

The current version of the Republican-led effort, S1258, relies on $200 million annually from the state’s sales tax on vehicles, as well as other DMV fees, to bond about $2.2 billion through the Transportation Infrastructure Bank.

The bonded money would be prioritized by the South Carolina Department of Transportation over the next decade.

Critics say the bill serves as a “Patch Act.” They say it does little to address the state’s long-term road needs.

The state DOT says the agency needs about $1 billion annually for the next 30 years to get roads to good condition.

SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall has said the bonding plan would free up additional revenue to get $4 billion worth of work done over the next decade.

Also included in the road plan is reform in state DOT governance. Appointment power of highway commissioners would be the sole responsibility of the governor’s office while commissioners would pick the DOT secretary.

Currently, the DOT secretary is appointed by the governor while the commissioners are appointed by state lawmakers.

The bill now moves back to the Senate for approval of changes before it can advance to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Nikki Haley has indicated she supports the rule changes included in the bill. On social media this week, the governor called for lawmakers to get a deal done on “a roads bill with reform.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina, click here.

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