The state Senate returns to session this week with a new roads funding bill on its agenda this week. A funding bill was merged with another one in a Senate Finance Committee meeting last week where it received broad support.
Finance Committee Chairman State Sen. Hugh Letterman, R-Florence, said it does not solve everything, but it’s a start. “I see this as a terrific shot in the road problem arm,” he said during last week’s meeting. “I think our citizens can see as soon as DOT can get the plans together, they’re going to see an awful lot of work in their highway system around this state.”
Leatherman’s bill would leverage $200 million a year into a one-time, $2.2 billion bond to improve interstates, roads and bridges. The proposed legislation would then free other gas tax money that would have gone into those improvements to be used for other repairs without raising South Carolina’s 17 cents per-gallon gas tax or other vehicle fees.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said the legislation would provide two sources of funding. “I think that’s an important distinction to realize is that there’s a difference between one time money and then recurring dollars being appropriated on a basis that this combined bill would appropriate it,” Davis said.
Senators are trying a different tack after a previous road funding effort became mired in debate about restructuring the state Department of Transportation. Gov. Nikki Haley has been pushing for more control of the massive agency by her appointed secretary, rather than the legislative-appointed commission that has the final say over roads construction projects.
Under the Senate version, the governor would choose all commissioners, with approval from the Senate. The House amended the bill last week to include themselves in the confirmation process, too.