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Haley budget proposes $61.4M more for state DOT needs

Photo by Tia Williams

Gov. Nikki Haley’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes allocating $61.4 million from the sales tax on cars and trucks to the S.C. Department of Transportation for maintenance of the state’s roads.

Although the money, which would normally go into the general fund, is far less than the DOT’s projected $1.5 billion annual funding shortfall, it’s a step in the right direction, said leaders of two business groups that have been lobbying to boost transportation infrastructure.

“Every little bit helps,” said Rick Todd, president and CEO of the S.C. Trucking Association. Redirecting motor vehicle sales tax revenue to the DOT is needed before the state might consider increasing user fees or taxes to keep up and improve the state’s highway system, Todd added.

The S.C. Chamber of Commerce, which lists transportation infrastructure along with workforce development top priorities for the General Assembly to tackle this year, applauded Haley for making additional revenue for roads a priority in the executive budget.

“It makes a lot of sense to take all of the sales tax revenue generated on vehicles and put it towards maintaining our state’s roads,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the chamber. “This proposal is a step in the right direction in that it provides additional resources for roads and bridges as well as helping to diversify the revenue streams committed to our state’s infrastructure.”

Haley’s budget proposal, announced earlier this week, sets the administration’s spending priorities. A final budget won’t emerge from the Legislature until the end of the session.

In addition, a special House committee spent the fall looking into the transportation infrastructure issue and plans to submit a bill later this month aimed at fixing some of the problems hampering the S.C. DOT’s efforts to find money to build and maintain roads.

The department is responsible for operating and maintaining more than 41,000 miles of roads and more than 8,400 bridges, ranking South Carolina the fourth-largest state-owned highway system in the nation according to the Federal Highway Administration.

A good-quality road system is vital for economic development, particularly as the state develops its manufacturing base and the Port of Charleston grows its container business, business leaders said.

The business community is “telling our state leaders we can’t wait any longer on providing adequate funding to maintain and improve our state’s infrastructure,” Pitts said. “Now is the time to come together to develop and implement a comprehensive, sustainable and recurring funding plan to meet our infrastructure needs.”

Todd expressed disappointment in how state leaders are reacting to the state’s transportation needs.

“I think business people are extremely frustrated,” Todd said, adding that the business community and electorate are willing to pay more in taxes, user fees, if the money goes toward fixing the roads.

“People want action,” Todd said.

Reprinted with permission from Columbia Regional Business Report. View original article here.

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