The last few weeks were very busy with a lot of bills passed out of the Senate and over to the House. We also started focusing on some of the critical issues that South Carolina faces.
Last week we passed a budget that sent all but $25 million of “excess” money to the counties specifically for road resurfacing. This is significant because this is the money that typically gets spent for key local projects. This money bypasses the state DOT and could be upwards of $200 million. Speaking of the DOT, I want to give you an update on where we are on the statewide roads plan.
On Thursday, April 30th, the Senate took a vote to set the “Roads” bill, that came out of the Finance Committee, to Special Order Status – which requires 31 of 46 votes. Nineteen Republicans, under the leadership of Majority Leader Peeler, voted not to set the bill to this status because it only addressed 1 of 5 points that the business leaders in this state requested. Senator Peeler explained this and that the time was not right.
Several of us had been working for the last couple of months on a plan that not only addressed long term funding of the critical infrastructure need, but also addresses DOT reform and curbing the growth of government by giving a tax cut to South Carolina citizens who are creating the growth. Within the Republican caucus, we created a smaller group to come with a plan other than just an $800 million tax increase.
On Thursday, May 7th, we rolled out our plan. It includes DOT reform, the funding which includes a 12-cent gas tax increase over 3 years and indexed after that, offset by a 1% per bracket Income Tax cut over 5 years. In year 5, this will produce a little over $800 million in dedicated roads money, and it gives back over $700 million in tax cuts.
All of the funding comes out of projected growth. Almost 30% of the increased revenues will be paid by out of state drivers. This plan provides a permanent and a substantial tax reduction for South Carolinians.
In the end, there are 3 plans. The first is an $800 million tax increase with no DOT reform and no tax relief for South Carolinians. The second is the Republican caucus plan described above, and third plan is the “do nothing” plan because you can’t get something passed.
Our critical infrastructure needs and the need to remain competitive with our neighboring states told me that #1 and #3 are not options. Our plan is not everything that any one person wanted, but a taxpayer-friendly plan that we believe addresses the long term needs without doing it in a “band-aid” approach.
This plan has not been voted on nor has it been passed. We have a long way to go to get it done by the end of this year’s session, but we are committed to getting the biggest issue South Carolina faces resolved. If you would like our roads proposal, please visit www.scsenategop.com.
Please feel free to contact me on these and any other issues. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your State Senator.