COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's roads and bridges need an influx of cash to keep up with traffic and to support growing economic activity surrounding Charleston's port, but Washington lawmakers are dragging their feet, industry advocates said Tuesday.
U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he is working on a plan that would charge a new tax on Wall Street transactions that would end up generating the $500 billion to fund a new transportation bill and pay back money toward the national deficit each year. Trades would be assessed a 0.25 percent tax, under the proposal.
Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, said financial executives are back to their old behavior of handing out big bonuses and lavish job perks after being bailed out by taxpayers and now they should pay the public back. The transportation bill, filed by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., likely has enough support to pass the U.S. House but needs buy-in from the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama, Clyburn said.
Clyburn said if just $2 billion of that money came to South Carolina, 100,000 new jobs could be created. The bill would fund a five- to six-year period.
The federal cash would require a match from South Carolina. Money for the match would come from the state's 16-cent gasoline tax. Road projects would be approved by the S.C. Department of Transportation according to priority.
Clyburn's comments came at an event put on by the Transportation Construction Coalition at Sloan Construction. Brian Turmail, spokesman for the construction group and Americans for Transportation Mobility, said South Carolinians should write and call their congressmen to demand action. Aging and under-capacity roads cost the country's economy $80 billion annually and cause drivers to waste nearly 3 billion gallons of fuel each year, Turmail said.
Turmail said a billboard and online campaign for a new transportation bill is now under way. The last comprehensive transportation bill expired last September and since then Congress has passed a series of stop-gap measures, but that impedes a state's ability to make long term plans, he said.
"The reality is our communities can't thrive and our businesses can't grow if they are saddled with potholes and unsafe bridges," Turmail said in a statement. "The best route to a better transportation system for our country lies in getting Congress to do its job and pass the months-late highway transit bill."
Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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