STATE GOVERNMENT

Haley: Put funds into roads, bridges

abeam@thestate.comFebruary 15, 2013 

ADAM BEAM/ABEAM@THESTATE.COM Buy Photo

Gov. Nikki Haley says the state budget will get a $100 million boost today, and she already knows how she wants the money spent.

Haley held a news conference at the state Department of Transportation Thursday to urge lawmakers to use the added money to repair the state’s crumbling bridges.

“We have got to have more infrastructure in this state,” she said. “I can sell South Carolina all day long. We can have the Googles. We can have Michelins expanding, we can have Caterpillar and all these great companies, BMW and all the tire companies that are coming in. At some point, it will stop if we don’t do something about this, if we don’t make infrastructure a priority.”

The state Board of Economic Advisors meets today to update its forecast for the state’s revenues for the 2013-14 budget year that starts July 1. Lawmakers use that forecast to plan how to spend the state’s tax dollars.

Haley said she expects the board to add at least $100 million to the budget, most of that in one-time money that is not guaranteed to recur and be available in later years.

Haley said she wants to spend $26 million of the added money to cut state income taxes by about $29 for the average taxpayer. She wants the rest of the money used to repair the state’s bridges. The governor’s office says about 1,000 of the 8,388 bridges that the state Department of Transportation is responsible for are “structurally deficient.” Of those, 421 have restrictions on the weight that they can handle.

Republicans, who control the S.C. House and state Senate, have made infrastructure a priority, too. They just want to pay for it in a different way.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, has introduced a bill that would use the $100 million paid annually in sales taxes on vehicles to repair roads and bridges.

A House budget subcommittee amended Harrell’s proposal last week to set aside 80 percent of the vehicle sales taxes for road repair, with the remaining 20 percent staying in the general fund to pay for K-12 education.

Haley said she applauds the Legislature for trying to fund road repair. But, she added, Harrell’s millions should be in addition to, not in the place of, her proposal to use up to $100 million in one-time money for road repair.

“I thank them for saying it is a priority. But let’s not lose sight. You’ve got $100 million of citizens’ money that deserves to go to where jobs happen,” Haley said.

The Economic Advisors will meet again in May to make the board’s final revenue forecast for the state’s coming fiscal year. The state Senate will use that estimate to build its version of the state budget.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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