Highway Infrastructure Gets Boost in State Budget
Source: GSA Business
June 21, 2013
A $22.8 billion budget passed this week by the General Assembly includes money that will be put toward fixing South Carolina’s roads and bridges – a priority of the state’s business community.
The budget, which was passed Wednesday, includes an appropriation for $50 million that would be leveraged to borrow as much as $500 million to fix the state’s interstate highway system and bridges.
Another $41 million has been allocated from state sales tax revenues collected from car sales to be used on secondary roads, while $50 million from the budget surplus, a one-time appropriation, would go toward replacing and rehabilitating bridges.
Overall, the state Legislature – counting appropriations and what will be borrowed – is putting about $600 million toward fixing highway infrastructure.
“Obviously the business community is very excited in this first step in infrastructure funding,” said Darrell Scott, vice president of public policy and communications for the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, which has led private sector efforts to fix the state’s crumbling roads.
The money would help put a dent in a $29 billion funding shortfall over the next 20 years. The shortfall is the difference between the amount of money raised through the state’s gasoline tax, which is the fourth lowest in the United States, and anticipated funding needs.
Scott thinks this year’s appropriations will set the stage for further action in next year’s legislative session.
“The consensus is that we have a $29 billion problem,” Scott said.
Repairing and improving the state’s infrastructure are keys to further economic development, he added.
“I think everyone is acutely aware of the linkage between economic development and job creation,” Scott said.
Gov. Nikki Haley has up to five days to veto any provisions in the budget. The Legislature is scheduled to return next week to take up any vetoes. To overturn the governor, both chambers need a two-thirds vote.
A coalition of business groups called the S.C. Business Roundtable have urged the General Assembly to enact additional highway improvement funding to avoid a collision between the state’s fast-growing economy and a road system that is rapidly falling behind the state’s transportation needs.
The group includes more than a dozen organizations representing the private sector, from chambers of commerce to manufacturers and real estate.
While the Business Roundtable saw interstate expansion needs statewide, it singled out Interstate 26 as a uniquely critical commercial and economic development artery.
Six of the worst bridges in South Carolina are on Interstate 26, between Columbia and Charleston, according to a recent report issued by AAA Carolinas.