COLUMBIA – The Senate roads debate became stop-and-go Wednesday as senators revisited a Department of Transportation reform bill that had already received key approval from a transportation panel.
The Senate Transportation Committee was expected to pass out a DOT Commission restructuring bill Tuesday. However, a conflict prevented some members from airing questions at the meeting over whether to give the governor the ability to appoint DOT Commission members from the agency’s seven engineering districts.
Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, wanted to ensure rural areas receive proper representation under such a plan. The bill moved out of subcommittee at the end of the day.
Republicans say such changes will improve accountability of the DOT Commission, which has become a critical part of any roads funding bill. Currently commissioners are appointed by legislators in each of the state’s seven congressional districts and one at-large pick by the governor.
The delay prevented the finance committee from discussing other reforms as it attempts to move a comprehensive amendment on the House’s road bill version to the floor.
A current Senate proposal would bring in $665 million a year dedicated to roads through a 12-cent gas tax increase and other fee increases, when fully implemented by what would be its third year. State economists forecast 29 percent of the tax increase would come from out-of-state drivers.
Once $400 million in tax relief is fully implemented in year four, gas tax dollars would be about $469 million. Including the gas tax portion and proposed fee increases leaves South Carolinians paying around $70 million above the proposed tax breaks. Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown, who helped develop the proposal, said future tax changes could bring additional relief