With two days left in the regular session, an ill-advised Senate filibuster has brought progress to a halt on road funding and capital projects for higher education. It’s no time for the Legislature to get bogged down in anti-tax rhetoric.
That would mean another year will pass without substantive progress on road funding. At this point, the most that can be expected for roads would be $150 million in surplus funding recommended by the House budget writing committee on Monday.
That might ease the pressure on lawmakers who can’t seem to find a long-term funding remedy for the state’s deteriorating transportation system. But a surplus funding allocation would be a sop, not a solution.
The state needs another $1.5 billion in transportation funding annually over the next 30 years, and that requires a regular source of additional revenue.
No question, the state’s roads and bridges could use the surplus funding, but it would be a one-time source of revenue and inadequate for the job.
The Legislature’s unwillingness to raise the gas tax would mean that the S.C. Department of Transportation won’t get a regular, dedicated source of additional revenue. And more than a third of the state gas tax is paid by out-of-state motorists.
South Carolina’s gas tax, one of the nation’s lowest, hasn’t been increased since 1987. Meanwhile, motorists pay increasingly high costs for car repairs and accidents caused by deteriorating and inadequate highways.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has led the filibuster against a gas tax hike, arguing that the state should use revenue growth and surplus funds instead.
In doing so, he also is holding up consideration of a capital reserve bill that would serve as a funding vehicle for higher education projects, including the MUSC Children’s Hospital and the aeronautics center at Trident Technical College.
Late Tuesday, Sen. Larry Grooms, R- Berkeley, said that federal matching funds for the Children’s Hospital also will be jeopardized without legislative action on a state allocation this year.
The General Assembly and the state need action, not a Senate filibuster.
South Carolina voters elect legislators to take care of business, not hold up progress.