Senate Passes Roads Bill, but Not Everyone is Happy

Senate looks to fund road repairs.

The roads in South Carolina may be one step closer to repair, but many lawmakers are unhappy with the current bill that passed through the Senate this week. The Senate gave the $400 million roads plan key approval with a 30-15 vote. This version of a roads bill does not include a gas tax hike but does focus on restructuring the Department of Transportation. The House bill, which passed its own version last year, included a ten cent on the gallon increase on the gas tax, a small cut to the income tax, and restructured some of the DOT, as well.

The changes in the Senate’s version of the bill come after several weeks of filibustering led by Republican Senator Tom Davis, who wanted to avoid a tax increase. Davis pushed that the state should look at how it spends the current allowed money and should tap into the surplus to fix roads and bridges. Supporters of the gas tax increase worry that without a fixed plan in place, not having reoccurring funds for roads and bridges would lead to future problems.

As the bill heads back to the House, many members have expressed their disappointment in the Senate’s bill. Speaker of the House Jay Lucas said in a press release, “The Senate’s deceptive plan to fix our crumbling roads system is irresponsible and privatizes politics over a sound solution.” Many supporters of a tax increase say those who are against it simply are worrying about their political wellbeing since it is an election year and lawmakers shy away from raising taxes during such times. But Sen. Davis insists that the money is there, and the restructuring of the DOT is important to S.C.'s money being spent wisely. “When you have a bucket with a hole in the bottom, the first thing you do is fix the hole, not just add more water,” Davis said in an interview with Palmetto Scene, drawing attention to the fact that the DOT has money, but in his opinion, are not spending it correctly. The money to fix the state's roads and bridges in the Senate bill will come from the General Fund, a fund that could also go toward paying for education, law enforcement, and other government agencies, and some critics say those areas need just as much attention as the roads in the state. But Davis says that it has come to a matter of priorities right now, and while those things are important, “the people of South Carolina want to see their roads and bridges fixed.”

The roads bill will now head back to the House chambers where it will either be adopted or lawmakers will begin negotiations on key points.

This week, the Senate also passed a bill that would ban abortions after the 20-week mark. The bill failed to pass by one vote in the House, but supporters say several key voters were out during the vote and are confident that it will pass in the coming weeks.