COLUMBIA -- The chairman of a House roads ad hoc committee that meets this morning said representatives could hash out changes to a current roads plan as soon as next Wednesday.
Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, whose ad hoc committee developed the original House roads plan the chamber sent to the Senate last April, said testimony given today could shape how House members respond to the $400 million plan the Senate returned last month.
“Is there a pathway to concurrence? We’ll listen to the testimony and once we have digested the comments from the meeting we’ll move forward with the best plan,” Simrill told The Post and Courier on Tuesday.
The panel will hear from S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall, Legislative Audit Council audit manager Brad Hanley, SCDOT Commission Chairman Mike Wooten and S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs director Frank Rainwater.
The LAC released an extensive audit on SCDOT on Tuesday that will be the focus of the meeting.
“The revelations of the audit could very well dictate a different path,” Simrill said. “Speaker Lucas and I met with Sen. Larry Grooms, Sen. Harvey Peeler and Sen. Shane Massey before the break just to talk about the possibility of an amendment versus concurrence. I met with governor’s office and we all agree we wanted to look at the audit report first.”
A sticking point for House members is the need for a better funding source than just the gas tax, something the LAC audit also recommends. The Senate plan would send SCDOT $400 million directly from the state budget every year, regardless of whether there is a surplus like this year or not. A House plan featured an increased fuel tax and fee increases.
Gov. Nikki Haley said there will be time to address the funding situation, but right now the House needs to concur with the Senate bill.
“We have told the House if they will pass this and concur that we will work with them over the summer to get more of a fluid funding stream going forward,” Haley told reporters on Wednesday after a forum on cellphones being smuggled into prison. “But the House has to concur. If the House in any way amends this roads bill they know they’re killing it, they know it’s going to die.”
Any amendment to the bill would have to go back to the Senate--now featuring new leadership--where they’d either accept it or create a conference committee to work out the differences.
“I think the Republican caucus will meet on Tuesday and hopefully we can meet with the Democratic caucus on Tuesday as well and by Wednesday have a plan,” Simrill said.
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