South Carolina House members set aside additional money for roads Monday, part of the first day of budget debate in the chamber.
House leaders plan to dedicate a total of $415 million for roadwork in next year’s budget, a slight increase than what passed the Ways and Means Committee a few weeks ago. That total would include nearly $50 million to pay for flood-related repairs.
Lawmakers voted Monday to redirect the various vehicle fees that drivers pay the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so that the revenue would instead be directed solely towards roads. The move would reroute roughly $100 million from the DMV to the state Department of Transportation (DOT). Under the plan, the legislature would instead use the state budget’s General Fund to cover costs at the currently self-sufficient DMV.
“What we are seeking to do is put money to DOT that is generated by anything derived from those who use the roads,” said State Rep. Gary Simril, a Rock Hill Republican acting as the House’s point man on transportation funding. “That’s why we’d be using the sales tax on cars, the license fees and tag fees.” He said the money for DMV would come from approximately $130 million the original House budget set aside for tax relief.
The House had initially wanted new money through a new excise tax on wholesale gas, but Senate Republicans made it clear they would not support any tax or fee increases. The new method approved by the House Monday is a counter to the Senate’s alternative plan which would simply set aside $400 million out of the General Fund each year.
House members will continue their second day of work on a proposed $7.5 billion budget Tuesday. House Speaker Jay Lucas said he expects the session to begin at 9 a.m. and continue late into the evening.