S.C. Senate Takes Up Road Money Proposals

South Carolina senators planned to show they are serious about passing a bill to get more money to the state’s roads and bridges.

📅   Mon February 22, 2016 - Southeast Edition
Jeffrey Collins - ASSOCIATED PRESS


South Carolina senators planned to show they are serious about passing a bill to get more money to the state’s roads and bridges.
South Carolina senators planned to show they are serious about passing a bill to get more money to the state’s roads and bridges.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina senators planned to show they are serious about passing a bill to get more money to the state's roads and bridges.

A flurry of committee meetings and floor work began Jan. 26 with a subcommittee trying to approve a bill to change the board that runs the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The meeting ended with senators asking for more time to discuss the proposal.

There are three ideas to changing the board's composition: pick them by the DOT's engineering districts, which are geographically compact and respect county lines but have large swings in population; pick them by the state's 10 council of governments, which would increase the size of the board; or maintain the current structure of congressional districts, which are equal in population, but have meandering borders.

After that is determined, senators have to decide if legislators should keep appointing the DOT board or the governor should pick her own nominees.

Support seemed to swing toward engineering districts because so much of DOT is already organized that way. But Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, asked for more time to talk to other senators before passing a plan.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler begrudgingly agreed, but pointed out the Senate Finance Committee was meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday and fellow Republicans likely wanted to know who would be running DOT before promising to give them any more money by raising the gas tax.

Peeler, Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republicans said a road bill must change the DOT's board and have a comparable tax cut if gas taxes are raised.

The DOT said an extra $1.2 billion a year is needed to get all of South Carolina's roads to good condition, but less money could still be quite helpful to a road network struggling to keep its pavement and bridges from falling into poor condition.

Peeler isn't ready to commit to how much money he wants to raise for roads, but said it is directly tied to how much taxes are cut.

“As much as we can possibly squeeze,' Peeler, R-Gaffney, said when asked for an amount. “I think the tax reduction will dictate how much we raise.'