Sixth District Congressman Jim Clyburn says the Congress is about to let a bill expire that the state needs to improve infrastructure. Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, says H.R. 4191, the “Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act,” would pay for the $500 billion, five-year transportation bill with a stock market securities transaction fee of ¼ of one percent (.25%).
He explains the plan he supports:
Taxpayers bailed out Wall Street, which is back to business as usual, even paying out exorbitant bonuses. I believe it is time to have Wall Street pay back the taxpayers. We shouldn’t fund a transportation bill by asking people to pay more at the gas pump, so I am asking that Wall Street repay main street.
Clyburn says, “Let’s get serious about how you fund this bill and let’s do it in such a way that it will be painless to ordinary working people here in South Carolina.”
At a press conference with Clyburn in Columbia Tuesday, representatives of business and the highway construction sector agreed with Clyburn that there needs to be an longer-termed federal transportation law enacted—but were not as convinced that stock transactions were best way to fund the bill.
Otis Rawl, president of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, says the business community “will have to look at that option pretty closely” before backing that transaction fee option as a solution.
Clyburn’s office says that 27 percent of the state’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and that driving on roads and bridges in need of repair costs S.C. motorists $811 million per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.
Clyburn’s preferred solution, H.R. 4191, would assess a small securities transaction fee on stock transactions, credit default swaps, futures contracts to buy or sell a specified commodity; and options. Clyburn projects that the bill, as he supports it, would cut unemployment in the state by half over six years. But he admits that the bill has until September 30 to make it through this Congress– with lack of real support by the White House and facing obstacles in the Senate.
Since the state has to match the federal money, dollar-for-dollar, it is not clear how many projects would get full funding over the next five to six years.
Randy Snow, president of U.S. Constructors Inc of Columbia, says that South Carolina has the fourth largest state-maintained highway system, yet has the fourth smallest budget. He says that the state’s gas tax has been 16 cents since 1987. Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Transportation Construction Coalition says that 80 percent of the state’s highway budget comes from federal money.