Wednesday, May 10, 2017

S.C. General Assembly overrides governor’s veto on gas-tax increase

Jack of all trades, McMaster of none

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 2:48 PM

click to enlarge DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
Majorities in both the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate have voted to override Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of the roads bill that will kick off an annual 2-cent increase on the state gas tax for the next six years.

Aimed at raising the state’s 16.75-cent gas tax — second-lowest in the nation — proponents of the bill have said the increase will help raise an estimated $600 million annually to fund repairs for South Carolina’s ailing road system. Earlier this week, both the state House and Senate approved a committee report that offered a comprise on the finer points of the roads bill. As promised, Gov. McMaster vetoed the bill and offered a brief online explanation of his reasons for doing so.

“Right now over one-fourth of your gas-tax dollars are not used for road repairs. They are siphoned off for government agency overhead and programs that have nothing to do with roads. Then much of what is left is spent on the wrong roads, roads with almost no traffic, said McMaster, who suggested that a more efficient Transportation Department would save taxpayers.

In terms of the state’s least trafficked roads, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has stressed the need for increased attention to the state’s rural roadways. In February, the SCDOT called for the implementation of a rural road safety program due to the fact that between 2011-2015, rural roads were home to 6,812 crashes resulting in either a fatality or serious injury. The SCDOT has called for an additional $50 million in annual spending to target the deadliest roads in rural areas.

Currently, more than half of South Carolina roads are considered to be in poor condition, up from just 31 percent in 2008. Overall, the SCDOT has told legislators that an additional $900 million a year in spending is needed to bring the state’s roadways into good condition.

Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall applauded the General Assembly’s effort to pass the roads bill to address what she referred to as an “infrastructure crisis” in South Carolina.

“Combining last year’s ACT 275 funding with these additional funds provides sustainable resources allowing the agency to immediately begin a rural road safety program, target interstate-widening projects to replace our structurally deficient bridges, and start the long process of rebuilding our existing road system,” said Hall.

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