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Business Leaders Press State Senate for Infrastructure Funds

Source: Columbia Regional Business Report

May 21, 2013

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce warned that the state budget faces delays as the state Senate grapples with business demands that more money be allocated to infrastructure needs. Meanwhile, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce noted that more than a dozen business associations have called for highway spending of $600 million a year.

"The Senate moved at a snail's pace this week while deliberating the FY 2013-14 state budget, much like traffic on South Carolina's congested roads," the S.C. Chamber said in a statement referring to last week's session.

"The business community's No. 1 priority, to invest in our roads, took center stage as much of the four-day debate was spent on prioritizing spending for infrastructure. With nearly $700 million in new general fund revenues to spend in this year's budget, momentum is building to allocate a percentage of those funds to infrastructure needs," the S.C. Chamber said.

The chamber said the Senate is almost equally split between those who want to spend a percentage of budget growth and those who want to bond and raise user fees.

“However, the spending shortfall on infrastructure is so large, now $29 billion according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, that all options must be considered to adequately fix the state's roads," the chamber said.

The S.C. Chamber pointed out that just last month, nearly 100 companies wrote senators urging them not to delay investing in roads and bridges. The chamber said it would take a combination of new general fund growth, bonding, redirection of funds to the highway fund and user fee increases to adequately address statewide needs.

"With SCDOT's total budget topping out around $1.5 billion annually and some projects, like fixing 'malfunction junction' at the intersection of interstates 26 and 20 in Columbia or expanding Interstate 26 from Columbia to Interstate 95, costing more than $500 million each, there is no doubt the state's infrastructure is woefully underfunded and requires a large infusion of resources," the S.C. Chamber said.

The Senate is scheduled to return to Columbia Tuesday to continue budget deliberations, with only nine legislative days remaining.

Ike McLeese, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said in a message to chamber members that infrastructure funding is the business community's No. 1 priority for the General Assembly this year.

"South Carolina has not increased infrastructure funding since 1987," McLeese said. "Since then, our population has grown by 1 million. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, for every $1 billion invested in roads, more than 27,500 jobs are created."

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