Last week Department of Transportation Director Robert St. Onge gave the State Budget and Control Board the current status on the agency’s struggling finances. The agency is currently led by a Legislature-appointed commission–which Governor Nikki Haley says needs to stop.
Like other state agencies, Haley says the DOT needs to be a Cabinet department.
“The crazy thing is it’s mismanagement. It’s the fact that we have a commission in the way, the fact that we have two different bosses. It goes back to an archaic system,” says Haley.
Haley says there’s a reason why a commission is not needed for the DOT:
“What we’re seeing is the left hand wasn’t talking to the right hand. This has been a couple years in the making and we’ve gone in and we’ve dug into what the problem is and what you have is a political commission that goes back-and-forth on deciding which projects get done–and they do that without any consideration of the finances of what the cash is in the department,” says Haley.
State Treasurer Curtis Loftis has insisted on the board seeking answers since he heard that some contractors were not getting paid. The DOT had to get a $52 million advance from its federal highway funds in order to pay these bills.
The governor says the DOT is not getting much done because–
“If you’ve got these people who are appointed by their Legislature among congressional districts and their jobs are to do nothing but try and get roads for their areas, not to look at an infrastructure plan for the state, not to do what’s best for economic development–but just to get what they can to satisfy the legislators that put them on that board–it’s wrong. It’s politics at its best,” says Haley.
So, Haley says her plan is simple–
“What I’m saying is we need to remove the commission all together. We need to make sure the director I appointed actually has to answer to me and not a commission that didn’t appoint him, and we need to take that middle man out. I think that will make a huge difference. It’s what I’m pushing for,” says Haley.
Some state legislators already agree with the governor, so the issue is likely to be introduced in the upcoming General Assembly.