Gov. Henry McMaster has chosen to replace the head of a transportation financing board, a few weeks after Charleston-area legislators pushed for his removal due to his opposition on the contentious Interstate 526 extension.
The State newspaper first reported the move.
Chairman Vincent Graham had led the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank for the past two years. During that time, the Infrastructure Bank board had been involved in a dispute with Charleston County Council over a plan to link the interstate’s current terminus with downtown Charleston. An agreement between the two parties would have initially had the Infrastructure Bank finance $420 million of the project, with the county funding the rest. However, that difference has ballooned to $350 million and county officials have struggled to come up with a funding source.
Graham and the bank moved last year to withdraw the project due to the lack of a specific plan. County leaders are furious at the decision, with State Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, even going so far as to call for Graham’s ouster. In a letter to McMaster two weeks ago, Senn claimed “single-handedly delayed the work of the SIB by repeatedly refusing to call meetings or by canceling meetings when he knew that Charleston had the votes to move our projects forward.”
McMaster, who became governor in January, appointed John White, Jr. on Wednesday to replace Graham.
“The governor felt the bank would benefit from an Upstate representative, and has the highest confidence in Mr. White’s ability to work with statewide leadership to secure our state’s economic prosperity,” McMaster’s spokesman Brian Symmes said in an email.
The Infrastructure Bank uses state tax revenue and resources to finance the sale of long-term bonds – which are used borrow money for highway construction projects which may be larger that the state Department of Transportation’s normal budget. It is considered a separate entity than the SCDOT.
Graham could not immediately be reached for comment.