Gov. Nikki Haley continued to urge S.C. House members Wednesday to agree with a state Senate plan to repair the state’s crumbling roads.
Haley applauded the House for agreeing late Tuesday night to spend $415 million in added money on road-repairs.
Of that, $365 million would go to the state Transportation Department, including $49 million to pay for repairs made after the October floods. Another $50 million would go to counties to repair less-trafficked roads.
“The money is great. But the money doesn’t mean anything if we don’t reform the agency at hand,” Haley said Wednesday, referring to the Transportation Department, now legislatively controlled.
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Big differences still separate the House and Senate road-repair proposals.
The Senate proposal requires spending an added $400 million a year on repairs. While the House met that number, some of the money that representatives approved for roads was a one-time appropriation.
State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said requiring the state to spend an added $400 million a year on roads could be unconstitutional and is bad public policy.
The differences between the Senate and House plans will be worked out during the budget process.
The House gave final approval to its version of the budget Wednesday before leaving Columbia until April 12. The Senate has yet to take up its budget plan.
During its recess, a special House committee plans to meet to consider reforms to the Transportation Department. An audit of the Transportation Department, to be released in the coming weeks, is expected to play into the reforms proposed.
But Haley again Wednesday urged the House to agree with Senate’s reform proposal, which gives the governor more control over the state roads agency. It if the House does not agree with the Senate plan, the road-repair bill will die again this year, she warned.
If the General Assembly passes the roads proposal, Haley said she plans to sit down with House and Senate leaders over the summer to work on a permanent plan to pay for road repairs. That plan could include a funding stream – possibly a higher gas tax – instead of taking money each year from the state’s general-fund budget, Haley said.
In the past, Haley said she would support a 10-cent-a-gallon gas-tax increase only if it were offset by a far larger income tax cut. However, Haley said Wednesday she would support a plan that was a net tax decrease.