Trump favors McMaster over Haley
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster asked President Donald Trump for $5 billion to repair state roads and deepen the port of Charleston.
The request, sent to the president in a letter Monday, includes $4 billion to repave crumbling highways and reduce traffic congestion.
Another $500 million would be spent to address 2,000 miles of the state’s deadliest roads. Another $500 million would go to replace and repair structurally deficient bridges.
“Some (S.C. roads) are worn and inadequate; others are dangerous,” McMaster wrote, blaming “years of enduring storms, floods, breached dams, hurricanes, the recession, counter-productive federal polices and other factors.”
McMaster, the first statewide elected official to endorse Trump’s long-shot presidential bid, also asked for $180 million to fund the last part of the federal government’s share of the cost of deepening Charleston’s harbor.
Whether the request ever will be granted is unknown.
Some congressional Republicans, who control the U.S. House and Senate, say an infrastructure bill is not needed now to invigorate the economy. Others say they want to know how the cost of the stimulus package would be paid.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats, who traditionally favor stimulus spending, are unhappy with the new president for a host of reasons.
The request comes as S.C. lawmakers are set this week to begin debate on raising the state’s gas tax and other driving fees to repair the state’s crumbling roads. McMaster has yet to say whether he will approve or veto a gas-tax increase.
Congress, controlled by Republicans, also could be reluctant to pass an infrastructure plan.
GOP Congress could be hesitant to pass Trump’s plan
Trump talked about spending $1 trillion on U.S. infrastructure during his campaign.
However, the president has offered no concrete details about how to pay for that spending, said U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, a member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"The devil will be in the details. To stay competitive in the 21st century, infrastructure will be important. But this bill — that is, at least, being talked about in concept — is going from the billions to about a trillion (dollars)," he said.
"What I don't think is wise is to leave our kids and grandkids the bill for paying for our infrastructure."
Sanford called McMaster's request "the state ...sending them their wish list. OK, it's always fun to add things in the world of politics. (But) from what are we going to subtract if we're not going to grow the debt or the deficit?"
The request from McMaster, a political ally of Trump’s, could find favor with the president.
McMaster supported Trump in the crowded S.C. GOP presidential primary field, where Trump won first place, setting him on his way to the Republican nomination.
McMaster gave a nominating speech for Trump at the Republican National Convention in July. In November, Trump announced he would pick former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, clearing McMaster’s path to the governor’s office.
McMaster ended his letter to Trump with a personal note saying to the president: “Peggy and I hope to see you and yours again soon.”
SC lawmakers set to consider gas tax
McMaster’s letter was sent the same week as S.C. House Republicans will begin considering a proposal to raise the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.
S.C. House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, said he appreciated McMaster’s request. But, he added, “It does not take away from the immediate and crucial highway needs in South Carolina.”
Simrill sponsored the House road-repair proposal along with the S.C. House speaker and budget committee chairman. That plan is expected to raise about $600 million a year.
The state Transportation Department has said it needs nearly $1 billion more a year to repair the state’s highways and make them safer.
McMaster’s $5 billion request would cover about a fifth of what’s needed over the next two decades.