County officials on Tuesday told an S.C. House committee they oppose taking responsibility for fixing and maintaining up to half of the state roads.
Those county officials did not offer another proposal to fix the state’s crumbling roads to lawmakers, who are working to come up with a plan by January.
However, the S.C. Association of Counties opposes transferring roads to local governments, the association’s Robert Croom told lawmakers.
Some of that opposition stems from the state’s failure to live up to its obligation to give local governments money already promised to them. That money was cut after the Great Recession.
The plan to transfer roads to counties was proposed by the transportation committee chairman as a partial solution to the state’s nearly $43 billion shortfall in road money over the next 26 years. It would give 45.5 percent of the state’s 41,414 miles of roads, or 18,844 miles, to counties.
To help counties pay for the roads they would get, chairman Gary Simrill, R-York, proposed increasing the counties’ portion of the state’s gas tax revenues and protecting state contributions to local governments.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has said she will release her road-repair plan in January. Haley has said she would veto any increase to the state’s 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax, which has not increased since 1987.
Other options Simrill and the House panel are considering include:
• Letting voters decide in 2016 if they want to increase the statewide 6 percent sales tax by another penny to pay for roads.
• Getting rid of the gas tax altogether and applying the sales tax to gasoline.
Some S.C. cities want more control over roads now controlled by the state, Scott Slatton of the S.C. Municipal Association told legislators.
That would allow cities to address issues, including installing traffic lights at intersections, that they have been unable to control before, he said.
Cities also want the ability to levy a municipal sales tax that could help pay for roads. Earlier this month, a majority of voters in the city of Greenville supported an added penny sales tax for transportation, Slatton said, adding the tax failed countywide.
“Some cities are typically more willing … to impose those extra taxes on themselves to provide for services,” he said.