This week, the House will begin debating H.3516, which provides a long-term solution to fixing our roads. If passed, it will also complete an overhaul of the state Transportation Department a decade in the making.
In 2006 as a member of the House representing Lexington County, I served on the House Department of Transportation study committee. At the time, the agency was controlled entirely by the commission. Commissioners were all elected by separate groups of legislators in different districts, and the director worked for this dysfunctional political entity. Commissioners constantly meddled in day-to-day operations of the agency, and horse-trading was a way of life.
In 2007, the General Assembly passed Act 114. To some, Act 114 didn’t go far enough, while to others, it went too far. But everyone agreed that the prioritization process created in Act 114 was a necessity. That process analyzes the state’s roads using such variables as traffic and public safety, then ranks projects for the public to see. Act 114 also gave the governor the authority to appoint the secretary, but fell short of giving the state’s chief executive full control of the agency.
Let’s move to 2016. The General Assembly passed Act 275, which finally ceded its legislative control of the commission and agency to the governor, providing a clear line of authority. It also provided oversight and prioritization for projects funded by the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank and gave the commission final say on all road projects. These were big reforms, and the General Assembly deserves credit for making these changes.
H.3516 represents the final piece to the puzzle that the General Assembly started in 2006: It removes provisions of the 2016 law that allowed legislators to unduly block a governor’s appointment to the commission. And it creates an infrastructure maintenance trust fund that prevents the General Assembly from diverting road dollars to, say, a green bean museum.
With all these reforms, the time has come to adequately fund the agency charged with maintaining the nation’s third-largest state roads system.
Call your legislators and ask them to support H.3516 and finish the job on roads.
President and CEO
S.C. Chamber of Commerce