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Senate plans to buckle down on roads bill Tuesday

FILE PHOTO
FILE PHOTO / mwalsh@thestate.com

State Senate leaders canceled two committee meetings planned for Tuesday so senators can debate a plan to repair the state’s crumbling roads.

“We need to get to the bill and start taking votes,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence.

Senators went home Thursday after two days of a filibustering by state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.

Davis filibustered the last three weeks of the legislative session last year, blocking a gas-tax increase from passing. Davis became a roadblock for the bill again this week, opposing an increase to the state’s 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax.

Davis wants the S.C. Transportation Department made into a cabinet agency, reporting directly to the governor. He also wants the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank abolished, arguing legislators — not needs — control where the bank’s road spending now goes.

How long Davis’ filibuster will last is unclear. Davis told his fellow senators Wednesday that if they want to increase the gas tax, they will have to vote to sit him down, ending his filibuster.

State Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said he does not expect Davis to be at the Senate’s podium indefinitely. Lourie added he hopes senators will start taking votes on the road-repair proposal next week.

State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said he, too, is optimistic senators will start taking up amendments soon.

“We’ve got to agree on a starting point on ... the real conversation,” Massey said.

Then, senators can start trying to agree on a three-part proposal: Giving up legislative control of the Transportation Department; increasing the gas tax and other driving fees to raise revenues for road repairs; and cutting the state’s income tax.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

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