COLUMBIA — Business leaders increased pressure on state senators Tuesday as they called upon them to either return their paychecks or take up the stalled roads funding bill.
Industry members representing agriculture, retirees, economic developers and others chastised the Senate for ongoing legislative tactics that have yielded no results.
“In the business community you don’t get paid if you don’t do your job,” S.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO Ted Pitts said. “I want every South Carolina senator to start returning their paycheck back to the taxpayer on a daily basis for every day they fail to start voting on the amendments on the desk.”
Pitts, speaking to members of the S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads’ Infrastructure Coalition in the Statehouse lobby, said it’s been 321 days since the Senate received the finished roads bill from the House. The bill was put on a priority track last year which limits debate on other bills, but no votes on the roads measure have been taken.
“We are fooling ourselves if we do not think that companies currently looking to make investments in South Carolina are not evaluating the state of our current roads,” said S.C. Economic Developers’ Association President David Cuda. “We are fooling ourselves if we do not think our prospects are riding our interstates and observing crumbling pavement, and backups caused by capacity constraints.”
The Senate spent Tuesday continuing the roads discussion by focusing on a bill to increase penalties for drivers endangering highway workers. Known as “Peanut’s law,” it was named after a signalman killed two years ago. Much of the discussion by Sens. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, and Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, shifted blame to other groups, such as the anti-tax Americans for Prosperity, they say fuels Republican stall tactics.
“It’s clear there are some in here that don’t want to get to a roads bill, I don’t know what they’re scared of,” Hutto said. “They’re worried about this money pouring in on them, they’re worried about the fact that everybody is up for re-election this year. I think who’s going to get credit for a roads bill are those that stand up and vote for a roads bill, those that are going to be punished at the ballot box are those that continue to obstruct.”
Malloy also scoffed at Pitts’ repayment proposition.
Senators returned to the roads debate six weeks ago after several public and private meetings on the issue. Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, filibustered for a week, on top of three weeks last year, before handing the podium over to Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, last Wednesday.
Bright and Davis say millions in additional state money can be put toward roads instead of raising the gas tax by 12 cents, but the Department of Transportation needs to be reformed before its given more money to spend.