The South Carolina House and Ways Means Committee passed a roads bill that includes long-term funding and governance reform, but opponents say it doesn’t do enough to help fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure.
Ways and Means members amended and adopted H. 3516, and the bill will be added to the House legislative calendar next week for debate in the coming weeks.
The roads bill would:
- Create an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund;
- Increase the motor fuel user fee, or gas tax, 10 cents a gallon over a five-year period;
- Increase the biennial motor vehicle registration fee $16;
- Capitalize on out-of-state registered vehicles;
- Create biennial registration fees for all hybrid and electric vehicles;
- Create a motor carrier road user fee for out-to-state truckers;
- Reform governance of the SCDOT Highway Commission.
“South Carolina has the most dangerous roads in the country,” said House Speaker Jay Lucas, a Hartsville Republican. “Businesses and job creators continue to stress the importance of infrastructure repair as a necessity to further economic investments.”
“We’re pleased that the legislature made road funding a priority last year, but there’s still work to do. Good roads are essential to help keep drivers safe and vital to keep South Carolina’s economy moving forward,” said Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Greenville-based Michelin North America. “I think it’s important for the legislature to finish the task this year and implement a solution for long-term improvements to transportation infrastructure across the state.”
For the past several years the General Assembly has allotted a significant portion of the general fund surplus to roads, but pressing needs for education, social services, and retirement deficits will require those monies this year, Lucas said.
“Our citizens have demanded that those who use our roads must be the ones to pay for repair, not just the South Carolina taxpayer,” he said. “The House also understands that every dollar raised for infrastructure repair should be used solely for the intended purpose of fixing our roads and bridges, which is why additional funding will be placed in an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund.”
A gradual increase to the state’s motor fuel user fee “is the most responsible option” to generate a long-term, sustainable funding stream for road repair, Lucas said.
“I will not support using general fund revenue for road appropriation again,” he said.
Americans for Prosperity in South Carolina, however, called on lawmakers instead to support a Senate bill that the group said would make the DOT accountable to taxpayers.
“While we recognize the great need to improve South Carolina’s roads, it is important to remember that without meaningful reform to the Department of Transportation, tax increases are almost meaningless,” said Daniel Brennan, state director of Americans for Prosperity. “A series of tax and fee increases our roads, vehicles, and gasoline won’t solve the problem alone.”
Lucas commended House Majority Leader Gary Simrill and Ways and Means Chairman Brian White for working extensively on the infrastructure plan.
“As the House roads bill moves to the floor for debate, I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure its passage as fixing our roads is my number one priority,” he said.