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General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die Without Addressing Business Community's No. 1 Issue

Author: Julie Scott

Source: Press Release

June 4, 2015

Contact: Julie Scott
803-255-2628
Julie.Scott@scchamber.net

For Immediate Release

Columbia, S.C. – At 5 p.m. today, the South Carolina General Assembly adjourned Sine Die for the first half of the 2-year legislative session. It is expected that both bodies will return June 16 to deal with gubernatorial vetoes and conference reports. The business community is extremely disappointed that the No. 1 issue facing the state – sustainable and recurring funding for infrastructure – was put off again for another year. Critical to economic development, safety, tourism, agribusiness and quality of life, the business community has been urging legislators for many years to work together on a long-term plan. 

“The business community is getting a clear picture on which legislators we can count on to address the issues facing our state’s competitiveness and the safety of our citizens,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. 

Throughout the legislative session, business leaders shared their thoughts on infrastructure needs

  • “It’s easy for anyone to see the condition of the roads in our state. We’re asking our government leaders to work together to reach a long-term solution to this problem.”- Pete Selleck, chairman and president, Michelin North America
  • “Our state’s poor roads cost companies time and money. We can no longer wait for our state’s leaders to address the issue.”- Jack Sanders, president and CEO, Sonoco
  • “The business community has never been as united on an issue as it is today on the need for increased funding for our state’s crumbling infrastructure. We cannot afford to wait another year.”- Mikee Johnson, president and CEO, Cox Industries

With four plans on the table, each with merit, the South Carolina Senate failed to compromise on a singular plan that invests the necessary dollars in maintaining and improving roads and bridges. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce outlined a 5-point funding plan for the state’s infrastructure for legislators to work from. 

In her State of the State address, Governor Nikki Haley released a three pronged approach to fund infrastructure, increasing the gasoline tax by 10 cents over the next three years, coupled with SCDOT restructuring and a 30 percent income tax reduction (from 7 percent to 5 percent).

Led by House Speaker Jay Lucas and Representative Gary Simrill, the House of Representatives passed an infrastructure funding plan with two-thirds majority that reduced the state’s 16.75-cents per gallon gasoline tax and reinstated the 6 percent state sales tax in the form of an excise tax on wholesale gasoline, among other items. The House plan enabled the governor to appoint the SCDOT Commission and provided a funding mechanism to return some roads to counties. It also included $50 million in income tax relief.

In late March, the Senate Finance Committee, led by Chairman Hugh Leatherman and Senator Ray Cleary, passed a plan to raise approximately $800 million for roads and bridges by increasing the gas tax by 12 cents phased-in over a three year period. The Senate Finance Committee plan did not address SCDOT governance or tax relief.

In early May, more than 20 republican senators, led by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, stood together to release an infrastructure funding proposal with three parts: highway funding, income tax reduction and SCDOT reform. The Senate Republican Caucus plan would have ultimately provided $800 million in additional recurring revenue using diverse means.

Though the legislative session ended without a comprehensive, sustainable bill, the General Assembly is likely to provide one-time dollars towards infrastructure when they take up the supplemental appropriations bill on June 16. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce is calling on the General Assembly to spend at least half of the expected surplus on infrastructure versus doing nothing this year. 

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s first state chamber Accredited with Distinction by the U.S. Chamber, is South Carolina’s largest statewide broad-based business and industry trade association. As the unified voice for business and industry, the Chamber is a catalyst for increasing wealth and enhancing the state’s global competitiveness in order to improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.

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