The South Carolina House has voted down an amendment that would have allowed the Southern Connector toll road to renegotiate and restructure its bonds. The vote was 46 to 59. The Southern Connector near Greenville provides a shortcut from 385 to 85 and is helpful for traffic headed to and from Atlanta.
Horry County Republican Alan Clemmons said the state is in no way responsible for the highway’s financial problems. But some House members were not convinced that renegotiating the bonds might not increase the states’ liability.
Williamsburg County Democrat Ken Kennedy told Clemmons that he opposed the state getting involved with the Southern Connector in the first place, and he called the financial issues “a mess.” Clemmons argued that allowing the bonds to be restructured might prevent further problems.
Clemmons attached his measure to a bill that the House has been discussing since last year, which would allow the Department of Transportation to develop a public-private partnerships for the operation of new highways, like proposed Interstate 73. The transportation department would negotiate with private entities and that would result in tolls on the road in question. So the discussion turned toward the issue of I-73 as well.
Ken Kennedy said that he supported I-73, but he was worried that the project would lead to the same issues faced by the Southern Connector.
Clemmons responded that a company willing to invest billions in the I-73 project have figured out the business risk already. But Kennedy said there was no assurance that the state wouldn’t be left holding the bill on I-73 if the company declared bankruptcy.
(Clemmons, Kennedy, Rice on House floor MP3 3:59)
Clemmons- Rice- Kennedy on House floor MP3 3:59
Pickens County Republican Rex Rice brought the discussion back to the Southern Connector, saying that the attorneys he spoke with could not give him assurance that the state would not be liable in the end.