Gov. Henry McMaster didn’t provide any details when asked during an appearance in Greenville about his plan for fixing South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges.
The Republican, who faces voters in 2018, did reiterate his previously stated opposition to a tax hike and criticized the current system for handling road money.
McMaster was in Greenville on Wednesday, March 29, to speak at the annual meeting of the Upstate SC Alliance, the regional economic development organization.
Asked by UBJ to provide specifics of his plan for fixing the state’s road network, McMaster said South Carolina has no single plan now, with various entities and officials allocating the available money.
“We need to be sure that we’re spending the money properly, that it’s going to the right place, going to priorities, and I believe if we do that, we can fix the roads,” he told reporters at the TD Convention Center. “We’ve got some money now, and we’ve got more coming in. I think we can fix the roads without raising taxes on the hardworking people of South Carolina.”
Asked for his reaction to McMaster’s comments, Woody Willard, a Spartanburg real estate appraiser and broker who is chairman of the state Department of Transportation Commission, said he didn’t know what the governor was talking about when he referred to additional road money coming in.
Willard said the only additional road money he knows about is what has been proposed in House and Senate bills.
“I’m just not sure where he’s coming from,” Willard said.
Willard also said the Department of Transportation has told lawmakers exactly what it would do with any additional funding it gets.
The DOT has estimated that it needs more than $1 billion more in annual funding to bring the road network to a good condition.
Chambers of commerce across the state have been lobbying for additional road funding for several years, while the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has fought the proposed main source of new funding, an increase in the state’s 16.75 cents-per-gallon gas tax.
Earlier this year, the House voted overwhelmingly to provide about $530 million more a year for roads, in part by raising the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over five years.
In the Senate, legislation has been proposed to raise an additional $800 million a year, in part through a 12-cents-a-gallon hike in the gas tax.
But on Wednesday, March 29, senators didn’t muster enough votes to ensure the bill would be debated, a move that drew a rebuke from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
“Each day that senators waste by refusing to take up the roads bill costs lives and money,” Chamber President Ted Pitts said in a statement. “The people of South Carolina deserve better and expect more — they want the Senate to do its job, follow the House’s lead and make a long-term investment in our decaying roads and decrepit bridges that we can all celebrate.”