Gary Youmans is tired of taking the long way.
For years, the Hampton County sod farmer has had to take a five-mile detour to avoid a structurally deficient bridge that wont hold his 18-wheeler, just to reach one of his fields. The alternate route takes longer and requires more gas, cutting into Youmans profits.
Five miles out of the way, multiple times a day, every day harvesting out of our field, Youmans said. I dont see any progress on getting (the states roads and bridges) repaired.
Over the next 20 years, S.C. officials estimate it will cost $48.3 billion to repair roads and bridges. Current funding sources federal highway money and state gas taxes will generate $19 billion, leaving a $29 billion deficit.
To make up that deficit, most state lawmakers agree the state needs to spend more money on roads and bridges.
But they cant agree on how to do it.
When you have a $30 billion problem, sometimes its just easier to give up, S.C. Chamber of Commerce vice president Darrell Scott said, when asked why lawmakers have been slow to address road funding.
Conservative Republicans want to shift money from other places to pay for roads. Meanwhile, moderate Republicans and Democrats have put forward proposals to raise taxes or borrow money to make repairs.
This week, a state Senate subcommittee began vetting eight transportation bills. Chairman Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown, said he hopes to cobble together a compromise by May 7.
While everybody agrees you need to deal with infrastructure, the real battle is going on between folks who want to raise taxes to do it and those who want to redirect revenue streams to do it, said House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, who opposes raising taxes.
Gov. Nikki Haley urged lawmakers to use a portion of the state surplus to repair bridges. In their budget proposal, House lawmakers voted to do that and also set aside $80 million of the roughly $100 million in sales taxes on cars that the state collects each year.
Some conservative senators, including state Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg, support that option. More moderate Republicans, including Sens. Greg Gregory of Lancaster and Hugh Leatherman of Florence, have proposed giving counties the option of raising taxes to pay for roads.
Given a rundown of the various proposals, Youmans said it did not matter to him which one lawmakers chose, as long as they fix the roads.
Theyre terrible, he said. It is unsafe to drive.