“A BATTLE FOR ACCOUNTABILITY WAS LOST …”
South Carolina Senator Tom Davis issued the following statement on the passage of H. 3516:
Since this debate began three years ago, I’ve tried my best to show how hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending for South Carolina’s roads and bridges could have been better allocated, how state transportation bureaucracies could have been reformed and consolidated, and how our executive branch could have been empowered with long-overdue structural reform – in short, to show how real accountability could be brought to our road-expenditure process for the first time ever. I’ve based my arguments on facts and I’ve based them on a continuing commitment to fight for the best interests of the citizens and taxpayers of this state.
And that fight will go on, even after today’s passage of H. 3516. Grassroots activists across South Carolina will continue to monitor and expose the spending decisions made by the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) and to call them out whenever they don’t do right by the people of South Carolina.
A battle for accountability was lost today, but not the war.
Leaving the State House today, I overheard several of my colleagues telling members of the media that this new law will “ensure that fixing our state’s roads and bridges will now be a first priority.” I do not believe that will be the case, at least not to the degree the people deserve. Raw political power as opposed to an objective assessment of statewide needs – overseen by a chief executive accountable to all of the people of South Carolina – will continue to hold sway and be the hallmark of the road-expenditures process in our state.
The new “Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund” into which the new revenues will be deposited is extremely porous and laden with exceptions, loopholes and conditions – truly a piece of work worthy of the IRS Code. Even proponents of H. 3516 admit the structural changes are “less than perfect,” and I’m tired of settling for – to use a hackneyed political phrase – “the best it was politically possible to get.” We could have gotten a lot more, but we settled – as we always do here in Columbia.
It is also very important for the people of South Carolina to understand that H. 3516 lays the foundation future increases in STIB debt, with sales taxes on vehicles being brazenly re-christened as fees so as to qualify as payments on STIB revenue bonds for new road projects (per our state constitution, such revenue bonds must be serviced with non-tax revenues, i.e., fees). And this was done at a time when we need a laser focus on repairing the roads and bridges we already have, not empowering the STIB to borrow more money for new projects.
The General Assembly was given a rare opportunity to fix our state’s infrastructure funding system instead of simply asking taxpayers for more money, yet it chose overwhelmingly not to do so. I’m disappointed that we squandered this opportunity. As I said several times during the debate on the Senate floor, I’m less concerned about the tax increases in H. 3516 (although I oppose them) than I am the failure to reform an expenditure process that blatantly skews political.
I’m also disappointed in Gov. Henry McMaster for what can fairly be described as a “drive-by veto.” Not only did he fail to try and any build support for his gas-tax veto – I’ve yet to hear of even one instance where he met with a legislator to try and garner support for having his veto sustained – he did not provide those of us willing to fight for taxpayers with the chance to do so in his absence; he simply “checked the box” by vetoing the bill as quickly as possible and returning it to the General Assembly for an equally quick override, even though I and other reform-minded legislators asked him to delay issuing his veto so that we had a full two weeks to rally support for it being sustained.
I believed yesterday and still believe today there was a chance to pick up the extra three votes in the Senate needed to sustain that veto.
(Editor’s Note: The above communication is a news release from an elected official and does not necessarily reflect the editorial position of FITSNews.com. To submit your letter, news release, email blast, media advisory or issues statement for publication, click here).