Haley: Revenue growth can fund road repairs

abeam@thestate.comJanuary 13, 2014 

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After unveiling her $6.6 billion budget proposal Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley spent a lot of time talking about what wasn’t in her budget: $106 million for road repairs.

The money was not in her budget because, technically, the state does not have the money yet to spend. But, on average in recent years, projections of how much the state will have to spend have grown by $106 million from the time Haley has announced her budget proposal to when lawmakers approve a spending plan in June. Haley said if lawmakers would decide to automatically spend that new money on road repairs, it would generate more than $1 billion in road repairs over the next decade.

But the state’s budget has not always increased.

In October 2008, amid the Great Recession, state officials cut $554 million out of the state’s budget after lawmakers already had approved it. But, with the economy improving, Haley dismissed that possibility this year.

Instead, she pointed out she proposed spending last year’s budget increases on roads – and lawmakers approved the idea. “That’s a success story from last year. I think that success story can continue on every year after that,” she said.

Republican Haley of Lexington vowed not to raise the state’s 16.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax – third-lowest in the country – despite a growing number of GOP lawmakers who say the state must take that step to repair its roads.

“People that want to raise taxes, I’m not your girl,” said Haley, who is running for re-election in November. “Why are we so anxious to raise taxes when we don’t need to?”

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden, the likely Democratic candidate for governor, criticized the governor for not including teacher pay raises or statewide 4-year-old kindergarten in her budget proposal, two things Sheheen has proposed.

“South Carolina needs a strong leader like Vincent Sheheen, who is willing to embrace big ideas, work across the aisle to get things done, and who isn’t afraid to stand up to either party in order to do what’s right,” said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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