Just as she did with schools this year, Gov. Nikki Haley plans to tackle ways to fund roads when the Legislature meets in January.
Haley unveiled a $180 million education plan that lawmakers approved for the budget year that started Tuesday. The education plan used money from rising state tax revenues in the improving economy and included spending more in poorer districts, hiring reading coaches, holding summer reading programs and improving technology in classrooms.
Haley said during a campaign news conference in Columbia on Tuesday that lawmakers wanted to improve education but had no plan. So the governor's office developed a spending plan and legislators "ran with it," she said.
That's the gameplan Haley said she will use with roads that need $29 billion in work by 2033.
The governor has already promised to veto an increase in the state gas tax -- one of the lowest in the nation.
"When you raise the costs on transportation, you are hurting business," she said.
She suggested during her State of the State address to use the annual budget surplus to pay for roads – what she called “the money tree.” Critics say the money is not a reliable source of revenue, though the state had an extra $86 million this year. Lawmakers did not act on her proposal -- a year after adopting a plan that could provide $500 million for roads.
Haley did not reveal any details of her latest plan, though said "South Carolina is doing well," suggesting that she might recommend using growing tax revenues to pay for roads like she did for schools.
"We can find money for that," she said.
One senator said Haley, R-Lexington, ought to share her ideas before voters cast ballots in November for her re-election bid against Democratic State Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
“She’s going to have to tell us before we come back,” said Sen. Ray Cleary, a Georgetown Republican who champions road issues. “The public deserves to know before the election what are her ideas.”