By Scott Miller
Published Nov. 9, 2012
Republican state Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, said Thursday he will propose legislation mandating that a certain percentage of growth in state revenues be set aside for road projects.
Raising the state’s 16.8-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, which is among the lowest in the nation, is not a political option for upgrading and maintaining the state’s highway system, Grooms said, speaking at the Upstate Chamber Coalition’s Transportation Summit.
The state could generate an additional $340 million and up annually for road upgrades, if it set aside 1% to 5% incrementally from growth in state revenues over the next five years. Doing so would prevent the state from diverting current funding from education, public safety and other needs, he said.
State general fund revenues for the current fiscal year are expected to be more than $6.5 billion, up about 6% from the prior year, according to estimates by the S.C. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s about $400 million in added general fund revenue this year that will be split among education, public safety, transportation and other agencies.
Highway widening and upgrading is particularly important, Grooms said, as state exports expand with the deepening of the Charleston Harbor. Better infrastructure is needed to handle the increase in freight from Upstate manufacturers to the Port of Charleston.
The budget for the S.C. Department of Transportation last year was nearly $1.3 billion, including about $815 million from the federal government, $450 million from the state and $35 million from other local sources.