COLUMBIA - A South Carolina state senator said he wants to know what Gov. Nikki Haley's plans are to fix the state's crumbling roads now - not after the election.
Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, was among several lawmakers during the past legislative session who pushed for funding reform for roads. But he said the biggest detriment lawmakers had working against them was Haley's threat of a veto.
"According to the governor, she wants to give her big plan to fix the roads in January before we get back," Cleary said. "I want it Nov. 1. I want it before the election. I want to know how she's going to do it."
Haley has not revealed the details of the plan. During a campaign event on July 1, she said she would present a road funding plan for lawmakers in January and warned against raising taxes.
"The $1 billion infrastructure plan Governor Haley signed into law last year is doing big things for our state - helping us announce over 56,000 new jobs and bringing record numbers of businesses to South Carolina," said Doug Mayer, Haley spokesman. "Raising taxes, legalizing gambling, and secretly increasing fees simply aren't the kinds of ideas South Carolinians deserve, and why the governor will continue advocating for revenue neutral solutions that will get the job done without hurting our growing economy."
Haley faces Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden and independent candidate Tom Ervin in the November election, as well as Libertarian candidate Steve French and United Citizens candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves.
In the meantime, Cleary said something has to be done, especially when it comes to addressing the "motorist user fee," most commonly referred to as the gas tax. But he said other options should be considered, such as increasing the fees for driver's licenses, requiring license plates for mopeds and increasing the $300 sales tax cap on vehicles.
All options must be considered if the state is to successfully address road funding, said Eric Dickey, chairman of South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads.
"Nobody wants to raise taxes, but that is one option that has got to be on the table," Dickey said. "That's going to have to be another government pill that politicians have to swallow."
Dickey said he understands the public's concern that money isn't spent wisely enough at the government level. But he believes the South Carolina Department of Transportation is doing the best it can with the cash flow the agency has. The problem, Dickey said, is the agency doesn't receive enough cash to support the roads.
Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, who chairs the House's Transportation subcommittee, said he wasn't sure about Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford's plan to address road funding through the authorization of casinos in Myrtle Beach. Daning said he believes the user fee-gas tax is the best and fairest way to address the issue.
"It covers everybody and the people who come through," Daning said. "Anybody who is using the road pays for the road."
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, also agreed that there's universal recognition that something has to be done, but the discussion on the issue has gotten louder over time.
Grooms, who chairs the Senate's Transportation committee, said Haley's recommendation of $100 million a year for highways every year is also not a plan. Cleary echoed Grooms' sentiment.
Cleary said if every single penny of new money were allocated toward roads over the next 20 years, the state still would only be able to address about 25 percent of the agency's $29 billion shortfall.
"Our primary job is to solve problems of government, not to get reelected," Cleary said. "And I want to know how she's (Haley) going to solve this problem. Because if she's going to do it the way she says she's going to do it, the everyday person might think it's going to get fixed, but it isn't."
Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.
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