By Paul Gable
As expected, two road funding plans were introduced in the S.C. House yesterday.
Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) and Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Transportation Committee introduced H.3579, a bill crafted around the recommendations of the study committee.
Rep. Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville) introduced H.3580, a bill that mirrors the gas tax/income tax plan outlined by Gov. Nikki Haley in her State of the State address last month.
Simrill’s bill has 64 co-sponsors and will probably be the major proposal concentrated on in that body.
According to a press release from the office of House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) yesterday, Simrill’s bill (i) restructures the Department of Transportation to promote efficiency, (ii) includes a funding mechanism that raises index-based revenue instead of a flat gas tax increase, (iii) reduces the size of government by giving counties the option to take back control of local roads, and (iv) continues a major shift in general fund monies to be used for road repair.
Stringer’s bill has 36 co-sponsors, enough to delay passage of a final piece of legislation for a while.
Two major road funding bills mean no final piece of legislation to move through the legislative process at this time.
Lucas acknowledged as much in the statement released by his office yesterday.
“Governor Haley and I have made tremendous progress towards paving the way to road repair,” said Lucas. “I have said from the beginning that agreeing on a responsible, sensible plan will require compromise and tough decision-making, Every single idea that is brought to the negotiation table deserves considerable discussion.”
Lucas’ statement also indicated an overall preference for the Simrill bill.
“After over five months of diligent and transparent study, I am extremely proud of the road map our ad hoc committee has proposed,” Lucas said. “This group, under the leadership of Representative Gary Simrill, successfully found a way to repair our roads without passing the burden onto South Carolina taxpayers. Their extensive research successfully plans for the future and optimizes resources to support the needs of South Carolinians and economic developers.”
And the difficulty with passing a comprehensive road funding plan to repair and maintain the road infrastructure in South Carolina is contained in the Lucas statement.
“…successfully found a way to repair our roads without passing the burden onto South Carolina taxpayers.”
What taxpayers are going to pay for road repairs?
Every dollar spent by state and local government must come from taxpayers. This isn’t the federal government that just issues more debt to provide revenue.
A key to watching just how much this bill will affect the pocketbook of taxpayers is how much of the current state road network is passed back to counties.
It that amount approximates the 50 percent initially recommended by the ad hoc committee, state legislators can sit in Columbia and trumpet passing a road maintenance and repair bill that doesn’t require any new state revenue to implement.
But, the burden will be passed to the county level where the real decisions and hardship will be felt.