Fix Our Roads

Our state senators need to reach a compromise on how much to increase the state’s 16.75 cent a gallon gas tax, how much to cut the state income tax, and how to change the structure of the Transportation Department.

Finding agreements is not common in politics. Setting aside disagreements for the state of working together is at times more difficult than it should be. But I think one place we can find common ground on is recognizing the pitiful state of our roads and bridges in South Carolina. There is a wide range of ideas and debates on how to fix our crumbling infrastructure, but I want to use this month’s article to join other mayors and local government officials in encouraging our General Assembly to find common ground on a forward thinking and fiscally responsible solution that will benefit all South Carolinians. At the South Carolina Mayor’s Association meeting in January, Rock Hill’s Mayor Doug Echols handed out the following article which appeared in the (Charleston) Post and Courier on October 16. I asked if it would be permissible to reprint it in the Clinton Chronicle and he agreed it would be fine to do so. The article is as follows. S.C. Mayors sound call for a gas-tax hike The damage and destruction caused by the recent flooding in the Midlands and along the coast is devastating. Our hearts and prayers - and those of all South Carolinians - go out to the families of those who have lost their lives, their homes and their families. In the midst of this time of trial, we have seen the greatness of South Carolina’s citizens shine through—neighbors helping neighbors and folks from across the state stepping up to meet needs great and small. The effects of this storm are of epic magnitude and will long be felt. We do not yet know the full extent of the damage, but an untold number of roads and bridges are impassable. Our state faces a daunting challenge in rebuilding infrastructure from Columbia to Charleston—and points in between. However before the rain even started falling, our transportation infrastructure statewide was already in dire need of repair. Before the storm the SC Department of Transportation estimated that it needed 70.4 billion through 2040 to maintain and expand the state’s transportation system, but it will only have 27.6 billion in revenues to meet that need. That is an almost $43 billion shortfall in funds needed for highway, bridge and transit systems over the next 25 years—a deficit of roughly $1.7 billion a year. The amount now needed for post-flood infrastructure recovery has yet to be calculated, but we expect that figure, too, will be in the billions. Recovery in the most damaged areas needs to take place, and it needs to take place quickly. However, we should not allow necessary recovery work to cause resources to be diverted from desperately needed road repairs all across our state. Now is the right time for our General Assembly to increase the gas tax, thereby creating a recurring funding source for the future—not a one-time funding that is merely a stopgap measure. The people of South Carolina understand the need for this fee to fund roads and bridges, and want our infrastructure to be the highest quality possible. The gas tax in this state has not been increase since 1987, and our crumbling infrastructure shows it. Good quality roads and bridges are vital for a state to flourish. Cities and towns, the economic engines of our state, rely on infrastructure to attract businesses and jobs. Businesses and industry count on quality roads to get their products to market and attract new clients. Schools and our children need safe roads for transportation to and from school. We don’t seek to define the exact formula for increasing the gas tax, but rather to implore our state legislators to take action. Research shows that when revenues are dedicated toward improving roads and bridges, voters support increasing taxes. Some parts of our state have had great success with dedicated use sales tax for road infrastructure improvements. We urge our state legislators to consider the success of these programs during their deliberations The pre-existing transportation infrastructure crisis in South Carolina has only been magnified and multiplied by the devastating floods in the Midlands and Low-country. Just as neighbors are already helping each other recover, we, as South Carolinians, ought to take responsibility and help pull ourselves out of the infrastructure mess we are in – and the General Assembly should lead the way early in the next legislative session. We call on the General Assembly to fully fund infrastructure improvements across the state – to do what is necessary to make our roads and bridges safe and ready for growth and prosperity for decades to come in every corner of South Carolina. This column was signed by the following S.C. mayors: Joe Riley (Charleston), Keith Summey (North Charleston), Linda Page (Mount Pleasant), Bill Collins (Summerville), Michael Heitzler (Goose Creek), Doug Echols (Rock Hill), Knox White (Greenville), Joe McElveen (Sumter), Stephen Wukela (Florence), Junie White (Spartanburg), Terence Roberts (Anderson). I might add that South Carolina has the fourth largest state highway system in the country but also the third lowest gasoline tax. Think about it, the fourth largest road system with the third lowest tax. It just doesn’t work. In 1987, Governor Carroll Campbell pushed for a .03 cent per gallon gasoline tax increase. Cars averaged 12-15 miles per gallon. Thirty years later, cars average 30 miles per gallon. In essence, we are now traveling at least twice the distance on the same tax of 30 years ago. Significantly, 30% of gasoline sold in SC is purchased by out of state drivers. Increasing the tax will allow them to help pay for our road and bridges. Also, a gasoline tax may be the fairest tax you will ever pay. The more you use our highways, the more you pay. If you do not purchase gasoline or diesel, you will not pay this tax. Some have suggested using the budget surplus to fix our roads. However, most of the budget surplus is non-recurring money, which means it will not be available annually to maintain our roads and bridges. Our state senators need to reach a compromise on how much to increase the state’s 16.75 cent a gallon gas tax, how much to cut the state income tax, and how to change the structure of the Transportation Department. I hope they can accomplish this during the current session so all South Carolinians can travel on roads that are not a hazard to themselves or their family members. (Bob McLean is mayor of Clinton.)

My Clinton News

P.O. Box 180
513 North Broad St.
Clinton, SC 29325
Phone: (864) 833-1900
Fax: (864) 833-1902

 

Sign Up For Breaking News

Stay informed on our latest news!

Manage my subscriptions

Subscribe to My Clinton News Newsletter feed
Comment Here