Acting South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, has taken advantage of his new post to shift attention to South Carolina’s aging roads — and how lawmakers can address a looming $42 billion gap by 2040 between necessary work and the current means to pay for it.
Lucas — who is temporarily acting as Speaker of the House following Rep. Bobby Harrell’s, R-Charleston, suspension on Thursday — announced Friday he is creating a special ad hoc committee to examine what steps South Carolina can take to better fund its roadways.
The Special Infrastructure & Management Committee is tasked with identifying new funding sources that can be dedicated towards road maintenance and discussing what reforms are necessary at the state Department of Transportation (SCDOT) to addresses those needs. The first meeting will be on Tuesday, September 16.
“It’s not all a lack of dollars, it’s not all mismanagement but the two go hand-in-hand and somewhere in this equation, something’s not adding up right,” Lucas said in a statement. “It’s time we get to the bottom of all this, because all South Carolinians are far too familiar with the end results this has produced so far – less than satisfactory roads.”
Lucas was joined by House Ways & Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, in making the announcement.
“This is the number one issue facing our state. Our roads impact everyone,” White said in the same announcement. “We’ve heard a large outcry from citizens regarding the condition of our roads, and the House is poised to thoroughly examine this growing concern. We continue to hear that inadequate funding is the issue, but there are systematic problems which must be addressed prior to simply increasing funding.”
State Rep. Gary Simrill, who was appointed Chairman of the bipartisan 13-member Infrastructure & Management Committee said the committee will try to address two problems: roads that are getting older and handling more traffic due to population growth, and diminishing revenue from the 17-cent statewide gas tax due to more efficient cars and price inflation.
Simrill said the committee will consider any idea or solution brought before it.
“What we’re talking about doing is not studying a problem. We’re studying a solution,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “That’s why you can’t go into these meetings and say there are certain aspects off the table. Everything will be on the table.”
Simrill said his committee of 8 Republicans and 5 Democrats will first learn more about the magnitude of the road funding deficit, consider any possible new funding ideas, and also examine SCDOT’s current structure to see if it can operate more efficiently.