By Paul Gable
Gov. Henry McMaster requested the General Assembly appropriate $300 million, from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the state received from the federal government, to construction of Interstate 73 as one of the items in the executive budget he submitted to the legislative body earlier this week.
McMaster made good on the promise he made to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce at an October 2021 press conference when he said he would request the I-73 funding from the General Assembly.
Traditionally, executive budgets submitted by governors of this state have received minimal consideration before being shelved and ignored when the SC House writes the budget. There is no reason to believe the same won’t happen with the governor’s request for I-73 funding.
McMaster presented a funding plan for the I-73 project which consisted of $800 million from the state, including the $300 million which is actually federal funds given to the state, an additional $450 million from the federal government and $350 million from the local governments in Horry County.
However, Chamber President Karen Riordan attempted to spin the governor’s remarks at the October press conference as a pledge that the I-73 project would receive $300 million from the state. She was joined in that spin effort by Rep. Case Brittain, who in his first year in the SC House was made president of the I-73/74/75 Corridor Association, which is a high-sounding name for a Chamber created entity.
In addition, Congressman Tom Rice and SC Rep. Russell Fry were prominent at the press conference and enthusiastic in their statements on I-73 funding. Fry, of course, announced in August that he was challenging Rice for the Congressional seat because Rice has been a failure to his constituents in the 7th Congressional District. GSD has said over and over that Fry is really a clone of Rice who hopes to gain Chamber support for his Congressional run should Rice continue to falter with voters.
Actually, the press conference and statements by the various elected officials was nothing more than an attempt to keep the I-73 project on some kind of life support.
What has happened since that October press conference?
Horry County Council defeated a resolution brought by council member Dennis DiSabato to commit the county to providing $4.5 million per year in county tax revenues to I-73.
North Myrtle Beach approved a resolution appropriating $1.7 million per year to I-73 funding with a number of strings attached including a requirement that all local governments in Horry, Marion and Dillon counties appropriate funding to the project.
Myrtle Beach passed a copy-cat resolution appropriating $4.2 million per year to I-73 with most of the same strings attached.
Dillon City Council passed a resolution opposing construction of I-73.
Horry County’s and Dillon’s denial of funding effectively render the North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach resolutions moot.
Marion County council recently passed a resolution supporting construction of I-73 but made no pledge of any funding for the project. It’s easy to support something you don’t have to pay for.
And now the governor’s executive budget calls for $300 million in funding for I-73, a request the SC House is expected to ignore.
The effect of all these various government actions is that no funding has actually been committed by any local government nor by the state government to date. So far, it’s just a lot of resolutions, conditions and hot air.
I guess the Chamber deserves some recognition for its ability to maintain the fiction that the I-73 project is moving forward. And shame on the local news media that allows itself to fall into the trap of regurgitating these fictitious pronouncements.
Here is the bottom line.
You have the governor and the weight of his office, the Myrtle Beach Chamber and its associated PACs and some of the most historically influential individuals in Horry County wanting to see this project move forward.
If our four local House members, Russell Fry, Case Brittain, Heather Crawford and Tim McGinnis, who have been huge vocal supporters of I-73 and who receive significant campaign contributions from the Chamber and its associated PACS, can’t produce significant funding for I-73 from the state budget, it’s time for them to resign from their House seats.
With all that said, it won’t be an easy task. Remember, Dennis DiSabato had the same backing and couldn’t muster six votes on county council to fund I-73.
On the federal level, Tom Rice has delivered basically nothing in funding for I-73. I’d call for him to resign his seat too, but I believe the voters are going to do that for him in the June primary.