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With Legislature split on roads funding, S.C. House committee meets

As the S.C. House and Senate spar over how to address South Carolina’s road funding needs, the House’s special roads committee meets Thursday in Columbia.
As the S.C. House and Senate spar over how to address South Carolina’s road funding needs, the House’s special roads committee meets Thursday in Columbia. aburriss@heraldonline.com

With the S.C. House and Senate split on funding for the state’s road repair needs this year, the special House committee tasked with working out a road fix in 2014 will meet prior to the House taking up the latest roads proposal next week.

The ad hoc committee chaired by Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, is meeting Thursday in Columbia to review the financial situation at the state Department of Transportation, ahead of a vote to put an additional $415 million into the DOT, while leaving a long-term fix until the next legislative session.

Simrill has opposed the Senate’s plan to put $400 million of general-fund revenue into the DOT permanently, arguing there’s no guarantee the surplus revenue from this year’s budget will be there in future years. Frank Rainwater, executive director of the state’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, is set to testify about the precarious nature of funding that could disappear if state revenues contract.

The way the Senate bill is written, the increase would be locked into DOT’s budget whether the state raises the same surplus in the future or not.

“If there’s a downturn, education will be on the table, law enforcement will be on the table, but not roads,” Simrill said.

Also slated to testify before the committee are DOT Secretary Christy Hall and legislative audit manager Brad Hanley, who will speak about the conclusions of an audit released this week by the Legislative Audit Council that called on the agency to better prioritize how it handles road repair. Simrill hopes the audit report will highlight the need for the agency to have a long-term funding source for road repair.

SCDOT commission chairman Mike Wooten is also scheduled to testify. The hearing will be held in the Blatt building on the Statehouse grounds at 11 a.m.

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome

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