By Paul Gable
SC House members amended their road maintenance bill last week to allow county councils the choice of whether to take over maintenance of current state roads.
Instead of County Transportation Committees as first included in the bill (H 3579), it will now be county councils that have the choice whether to accept maintenance responsibility for roads within the county now in the state system.
It would be nice to see County Transportation Committees disbanded with gas tax rebates (C Funds) from the state to the counties directly disbursed to county governments.
The change is a necessary one as the elected body of the county is the only one to properly determine whether additional road maintenance can be fitted into the county budget. The C Fund money that is disbursed to counties will not be nearly enough to fund maintenance and repair of state roads transferred to counties.
Additionally, the bill increases gas tax revenue by taxing gas at the wholesale level, which is estimated to bring an additional $400 million per year for road maintenance. An offsetting provision would reduce state income tax by approximately $48 million per year.
Gov. Nikki Haley has been traveling around the state trashing state legislators for not following her plan of offsetting any gas tax increase by an equivalent or greater reduction in state income tax revenue.
However, one must wonder if Haley’s histrionics are really about tax savings or about making her look good on the national level where she hopes a new Republican administration in 2017 would find a job for her.
Both the SC House and SC Senate seem set on raising taxes to pay for road maintenance. It is going to be interesting to see if the bill can be voted out of the Senate in enough time to actually make it law this year considering a conference committee with the House and a veto override seem in the offing.