By Paul Gable
It appears the S.C. House is fully intent on dumping approximately 50% of the current state road network onto the backs of the counties.
Reading into H.3579, the bill that has the most support among S.C. House members, the intent becomes quite apparent.
While it has been said repeatedly in the media that counties would have the option to accept the roads from the state, this isn’t quite true.
The wording in the bill makes the transfer automatic unless the County Transportation Committee specifically notifies the S.C. Department of Transportation that it refuses the transfer of roads for its county before November 1, 2015.
It gets even better.
The current 46 County Transportation Committees are dissolved at the end of the current fiscal year. The legislative delegation of each county will determine by July 1, 2015 how C funds, those gas tax funds that are remitted to counties, are to be administered beginning in Fiscal Year 2015-16.
The legislative delegations have three options to choose from for administration of C funds:
- Allow SCDOT to administer the funds for the county
- Designate county council to administer the funds. If this option is chosen, county council must appoint a C Funds Advisory Committee that includes one mayor, one municipal council member and one municipal employee (all from different municipalities in the county).
- Appoint a new County Transportation Committee that includes one mayor, one council member and one municipal employee (all from different municipalities).
It is logical to expect that each county legislative delegation will choose whichever option it deems most amenable to accepting state roads.
Unless it specifically opts out, each county will receive the liability for maintaining the transferred roads. But, only in option 2 does the county council get to make the final decision on how its county’s C funds are spent.
Why is the S.C. General Assembly so unwilling to allow local government to govern?
This is not a good bill. Unless the S.C. Senate passes something totally different and a conference committee strikes the transfer of roads, expect the state to transfer its road funding problems to the counties beginning next fiscal year, without the means for counties to fund road maintenance.
S.C. drivers will still face the problems of poorly maintained roads while the General Assembly will claim it handled the problem.