By Robert Kittle
South Carolina would borrow up to $500 million for roads and bridges under a tentative budget agreement that a state budget conference committee has reached. The full House and Senate must approve the plan.
Finding more money for the state's roads and bridges was a top priority of this year's legislative session, but most lawmakers did not want to raise taxes. So instead, the plan is to use $50 million from the General Fund so the State Infrastructure Bank can borrow up to $500 million.
The plan would also use $41 million from the sales tax on vehicles for secondary roads that don't qualify for federal highway money. If there's any one-time money left at the end of the year, which can happen in years when the economy improves more than expected and the state takes in more than it budgeted to spend, that money would go toward repairing bridges.
Caitlin Kolotcy and her family were driving from Anderson to Charleston Monday and stopped at a rest area on I-26. She says of the state's roads, “They're very bumpy. Driving on the highway, the expressway, worried about my tires. They're constantly getting worn down, just from the conditions of the roads, all the potholes.”
One of the drawbacks of the proposed plan is that, while it would raise up to $500 million, the state DOT says it needs $29 billion over the next 20 years, or $1.45 billion a year, just to bring the condition of the state's roads up to a level it considers “good”. Borrowing $500 million would add to the state's debt while providing only about one-third of the financial needs of one year.
But Kolotcy says, “I think it would be a good start to get it going.”