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Haley says she's still working on road funding plan

Author: Heidi Heilbrunn/Staff

Source: Greenville Online

November 7, 2014

COLUMBIA – Gov. Nikki Haley said today she is still working on a road funding plan for the state and does not see local sales tax initiatives as any part of the solution.

Haley, who won a resounding victory in her re-election Tuesday night, said she is opposed to penny sales tax increases and she voted against one for Lexington County this week.

"When I'm recruiting companies, they look at that," she said. "And it totally diminishes a county when they get too high up in those sales taxes."

Greenville County voters handily rejected a 1 percent sales tax to pay for road improvements Tuesday. A sales tax vote also failed in Lexington County.

The state Department of Transportation this summer estimated as part of its long range plan that the state faces a funding shortfall for infrastructure of $42 billion over 29 years, or almost $1.5 billion per year.

Haley said during the campaign she would present a plan to lawmakers in January to address infrastructure needs but has not given any more details.

She said today she is looking at the availability of federal funding, state funding and the immediate needs of the state. New road projects, she said, "are going to be put on the back burner."

She repeated her vow to oppose any gas tax increase but would not rule anything else out.

"This is like the education reform plan," she said. "The way we did it is we brought all the stakeholders to the table and we looked at what all there ideas were and then we merged all that into one. That's kind of what (we're) doing now. You've got everybody who wants something different. What we're going to try to do is pull something out of that. It is not easy."

She said she is talking to lawmakers, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the S.C. Trucking Association "and anybody who has a stake in infrastructure." Haley said she also is looking at what other states are doing.

Haley said there is "no magic pot of money that is suddenly going to appear that's going to fix roads, which means we've got to get creative."

Haley also said:

— She is now in a "strong search" for a new director of the state Department of Social Services. Former director Lillian Koller, whom Haley appointed in 2011, resigned under fire from some lawmakers in June over the agency's handling of child abuse and neglect cases.

— She supports tougher laws for criminal domestic violence but believes increasing penalties alone will not fix the problem.

— She plans to be "loud" in her fight for ethics reform when lawmakers return next year.

"People say they don't trust their government," she said. "And when people say they don't trust their government, the Legislature has to respond to that. Everybody I've talked to in the Legislature gets it. After the last couple of months I think the Legislature feels pressure for it. So I think the opportunity is really good to get it done."

— She expects a better relationship with the House now that former House Speaker Bobby Harrell has resigned.

"It can't be any worse," she said of her relationship with House leadership. She said she respects Acting House Speaker Jay Lucas.

"I think he has a true passion for moving South Carolina forward and I don't think this will be about him," she said.

Haley said of Tuesday night's 14-point win that she was in "total shock" when she was told the race had been called early. She said of reports over her future in national office that "I don't think about it."

"My focus is really on this first year," she said. "It's on this India trip I have to take next week trying to bring jobs back, it's on getting the cabinet in the right place for any of them that we're going to have holes in, it's for making sure I really work with the Legislature on these issues."

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