S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has given the state of South Carolina a powerful incentive to abuse its eminent domain powers under a massive borrowing bill signed this week.
Here’s the relevant section of the $500 million highway borrowing bill signed by Haley …
The (S.C. Department of Transportation) may transfer from the state highway secondary system any road under its jurisdiction, determined by the department to be of low traffic importance, to one of the parties indicated in this section if mutual consent is reached between the department and the party that the road is being transferred to:
(a) a county or municipality;
(b) a school;
(c) a governmental agency;
(d) a nongovernmental entity; or
(e) a person.
Wait … a person?
We’re all for the privatization of government functions but this sounds all sorts of sketchy … particularly given the ability of the SCDOT to obtain property for nickels on the dollar if it “deems” it for public use.
In fact it strikes us as a recipe for abuse …
The goal of this particular section of the law is to reduce South Carolina’s sprawling network of state-maintained roads. Despite ranking fortieth nationally in size, the Palmetto State maintains the nation’s fourth largest network of state-maintained roads – which is one reason taxpayers spend so much money on infrastructure costs. Stung by these costs, lawmakers who have been approving unnecessary projects and gobbling up roadways in recent years now want to pass off the responsibility for maintaining these roads to local governments.
That’s a good idea in theory, but South Carolina leaders cannot trample on private property rights as they take the first tentative steps toward a more manageable highway system.