The S.C. Senate took no action Tuesday on a bill to pay for road repairs statewide after dismissing seven Democratic amendments along party lines.
Senate Republican leaders, who hold the majority in the chamber, don't expect a vote until Thursday on the plan. That plan includes using $400 million a year in added money from the state’s general fund and giving more control of the S.C. Department of Transportation to the governor.
That means the House, which passed a road-repair plan last year that included a 10-cent-a-gallon gas-tax increase, would get the bill on the week that filing begins for 2016 legislative elections. The Senate plan, which has Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s approval, has no gas-tax hike. Many Republicans don’t want a tax hike in an election year.
In an unusual display of unity, Senate Republicans stuck together Tuesday in repelling efforts by Democrats to put their mark on the year’s top legislative priority.
Democrats called the GOP proposal the “Patch Act” because $400 million a year isn’t enough to address all the state’s road news, including widening interstates, and the funding isn’t guaranteed every year. Worse yet, they say, paying for roads from the general fund threatens other state priorities, including funding of K-12 schools, higher education and local governments.
Democrats also ripped the idea that giving Haley control of the Transportation Department would solve any of the state’s road problems, citing her failure to appoint commissioners at other state agencies that she already controls and the quality of some of her nominees to head agencies.
Senate Democrats are expected to continue offering amendments Wednesday, but Republicans have said they will vote on the roads plan they agreed to last week.