You may have to pay more money to park in city-owned parking spaces because of a proposal lawmakers inserted into the state budget on Thursday.
The proposal, sponsored by state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, would require S.C. cities to give 35 percent of the money that they collect from parking tickets and meters on state-owned roads to the state government.
If it passes, the proposal would transfer almost $2 million a year that now goes to South Carolina’s two largest cities to the state.
That’s because the state owns 70 percent of the roads in Columbia and 75 percent of the roads in Charleston. The proposal would cost Columbia $700,000 a year and Charleston $1.13 million a year, according to city officials. That loss, they said, likely would lead them to increase parking rates.
Limehouse’s company, Palmetto Parking, manages 27 private parking lots and garages in and around Charleston, according to its website. But Limehouse said he would not benefit financially if Charleston raised its public parking rates because he does not own the private parking lots and garages that he manages. Instead, he said his proposal is designed to recoup money derived from state-owned roads so the state Department of Transportation can better maintain those roads.
“When a city ... puts in meters on a state right-of-way on a road the state maintains and keeps all the money, how is that equitable?” he said. “(The state) should be getting half of it, really.”
Charleston’s $17.4 million-a-year parking fund is so robust that it supports that city’s general fund, which pays for the police and fire departments.
“This proviso would cause the city significant harm,” Stephen Bedard, Charleston’s chief financial officer, wrote in an email to The State newspaper. “The mayor and City Council would be faced with raising some form of general revenue tax or more likely cutting $1.13 (million) from our city’s general operating budget.”
Columbia borrows money against its $7 million-a-year parking fund, about $2 million of which comes from parking fines, to build parking garages. City parking services director John Spade said he did not know if the proposal would affect the city’s ability to repay its garage debt.
“It would be a major blow to the parking fund,” he said. “Logistically, how do we figure out which ones (tickets) are written on state streets and which ones are written on city streets.”
State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, voted against the proposal in part, he said, because he only had “10 seconds’ notice.”
“I certainly don’t see myself, as a representative of a district back home that is 70 percent situated within a municipality, (wanting) to overreach and mandate that they send 35 percent of all gross revenue back to the state,” he said.
The proposal now goes to the full House Ways and Means Committee as part of the House puts together its proposal for the state budget that takes effect July 1.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.