By Paul Gable
The effort to find funding to fix the state’s roads will be the elephant in the room when the SC General Assembly convenes in January 2016.
With several road bills already in the legislative process, how to mix a possible gas tax increase with other proposals in an election year will cause big problems for legislators.
An astute political observer I have known for a long time predicts no road maintenance bill will be passed next year because of the elections.
The easy fix is some kind of gas tax increase, which will not be popular with the entire 124 house members and 46 senators up for reelection.
The more difficult answer would be for legislative committees to actually go through the budget to determine where and how much money could be pulled from other areas and redirected to roads.
Nobody, so far, has bothered to take the time and make the effort to do a real study of the budget to determine how much money is wasted each year on nonsense programs.
That’s one of the problems with most government budgets, once a program makes its way into a line item, it will remain there forever.
For this year, it looks like the SC General Assembly will divide $150 million from excess revenues among the 46 county transportation committees throughout the state with the proviso that this money can be spent only on state roads within the respective counties.
While the money would be spread out among the counties according to road mileage, it averages only slightly over $3 million per county, not near enough to do the necessary maintenance.
This seems like a way to prepare the counties for getting approximately 50% of current state roads dumped on them next year if any type of road maintenance bill passes.
Neither is any type of solution, but would continue a long standing SC General Assembly practice of dumping its problems on local governments while restricting funding options for those local governments.
What is really needed is a major house cleaning in Columbia with scores of new legislators elected to do a job rather than the current group who appears to spend too much time deciding which foreign destination their campaign funds should take them to this year while ignoring the real problems of the state.