Politics & Government

McMaster could be an ‘infrastructure governor,’ SC roads chairman says

The head of the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission said Thursday that he is eager to learn Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster’s position on higher spending on the state’s roads and bridges.

Whether McMaster will support an increase to the state’s gas tax to pay to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges is unknown.

McMaster is set to become governor if Gov. Nikki Haley is confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Since Haley’s nomination by President-elect Donald Trump was announced last week, McMaster has been quiet — not responding to media inquiries

But McMaster could take the lead on addressing the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, Transportation commission chairman Mike Wooten said Thursday. “He has a great opportunity to be an ‘infrastructure governor,’ and we haven’t had one in a long time.”

After winning a second term, Gov. Haley endorsed a gas-tax increase but only if it were tied to a much larger income-tax cut. Critics said Haley’s plan would have slashed spending on other state services, including education and law enforcement.

Earlier this year, Haley signed a road-spending plan that did not include an increase to the gas tax. However, Haley said that stop-gap plan was “not of the magnitude or sustainability” needed to address the state’s highway needs. She added finding a long-term solution would be the state’s No. 1 priority when lawmakers returned to Columbia in January for the 2017 legislative session.

“The governor, in a leadership role, can do great things,” Wooten said. “I’m hoping that Gov. McMaster, when he is governor, will do that.”

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope