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Dem House leader wants to bet on casinos to pay for SC roads (update)

07/02/2014 12:55 PM

07/29/2014 8:05 PM

While calls continue for Gov. Nikki Haley to share her state roads plan, House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford announced his bet to help with the $29 billion shortfall in repairs.

The Columbia Democrat said Wednesday that he plans to introduce legislation next year to allow casinos in the Myrtle Beach area to raise money for roads. He cited that 80 percent of Democratic voters supported the idea in a non-binding question on the June 10 primary ballot.

"Gov. Haley doesn't have a plan to fix our roads," Rutherford said in a statement. "She's against everything and for nothing. That kind of stubbornness won't fill our potholes, widen I-26, or create I-73. It's time to get serious about how we're going to pay for these repairs."

Rutherford agrees with Haley on trying to find ways to pay for roads without raising South Carolina's near national-low state gas tax.

"Anyone who loves individual freedom, personal liberty, and lower taxes should get behind this issue 110 percent," Rutherford said.

A pair of casino cruise boats already operate out of Little River, north of Myrtle Beach, that take gamblers to international waters.

Democratic gubernatorial challenger Vincent Sheheen said "every option should be open for discussion."

"If we do consider casinos, however, there must be significant input from local citizens and leaders, as well as strict regulation and safeguards built into the proposal to ensure that South Carolinians are protected, and we don't do more harm than good," he said.

Haley, a Republican seeking re-election, opposes the idea of casinos.

“Legalizing gambling doesn’t solve any problems – it creates them, and Gov. Haley believes South Carolina simply deserves better ideas than that," spokesman Doug Mayer said. "The governor, like the majority of South Carolinians, doesn’t support casino gambling and will never take any action that allows it to happen here.”

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and several members of the General Assembly representing the Grand Strand did not respond for comment.

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A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to Follow The Buzz @buzzatthestate. Follow Cassie @cassielcope. Follow Jamie @jamiemself. Follow Andy @andyshain.

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