Fort Mill Times

Sen. Greg Gregory talks to Fort Mill Rotary about roads, raffles

State Sen. Greg Gregory wants Rotarians to support two constitutional amendments and do the math on road funding.

Gregory, whose district covers parts of York and Lancaster counties, addressed the Fort Mill Rotary Club on Wednesday with a list of accomplishments and coming attractions. Gregory supports several changes to the election or appointment of state leaders, including a state constitutional amendment on next month’s ballot asking whether the adjutant general should be appointed rather than elected.

South Carolina is the only state to elect that position, which oversees the state’s National Guard.

“I would encourage you to vote yes,” Gregory told Rotarians.

Gregory also talked fundraising raffles, an issue impacting groups like the Rotary club. Despite “almost always” being held for a good cause, Gregory said, raffles are prohibited by a state law that only allows the state to participate in lotteries.

“Some people conduct them,” Gregory said, “but they are illegal.”

Gregory said he hasn’t seen a sheriff in the state bring up a case against mainly the nonprofits that hold raffles, but asked Rotarians to support a state constitutional amendment in November that would make them legal.

Gregory spent much of his time Wednesday discussing roads. He favors a two-cent per year gasoline sales tax increase for five years, which would generate about 50 percent more revenue annually for the state Department of Transportation.

“It’s a problem of arithmetic,” Gregory said of state road funding woes. “We cannot spread our existing funding over our existing roadways.”

South Carolina has about 41,000 miles of state-maintained roadways, fourth highest in the country. The state gasoline tax of more than 16 cents per gallon is third lowest and hasn’t changed since the 1980s. Cars getting better mileage each year mean fewer gas tax dollars for road use that has steadily increased with the state’s surging population.

“It’s going to make it (the revenue stream) thinner and thinner,” Gregory said.

Rotarian Al Steele, who spent a decade in the car sales business, asked if sales tax on auto purchases could help. The state charges the same now, Steele said, as it did when the average car cost $3,500.

“The average car now costs $35,000 – 10 times as much – yet we’re still using a 1974 model for taxing,” Steele said.

Gregory called York County a “great success story” with its voter-mandated Pennies for Progress program for new construction. Gregory in the Senate, and state Rep. Raye Felder (R-Fort Mill) in the House, introduced companion bills last session to allow counties a vote to increase gas tax locally, for road repairs in those counties.

“Neither one of us got much traction,” Gregory said. “We’ll try again next year.”

Perhaps the biggest swing and miss in the most recent legislative session, Gregory said, was in ethics reform. Since the session ended, House Speaker Bobby Harrell was indicted on ethics charges related to his use of funds while in office.

“If we needed any more catalyst, that should be it,” Gregory said. “That will be a front-burner issue in January.”