By Anthony Scannella
Photos by Colin Demarest
Gov. Nikki Haley Wednesday urged the House to agree with the Senate’s proposed highway reform bill that would pour an additional $400 million into road and bridge repairs and engineer reform at the S.C. Department of Transportation.
Haley said that if the bill were passed, it would be a huge win for DOT reform as well as a huge win for the secretary of transportation. At a news conference, she said she expects the House will agree with the Senate’s changes.
Haley said that the biggest part of the bill would be its reform. In the past, commissioners were appointed by the legislature, with roads being based on commission deals.
The new bill, Haley said, would allow her to appoint commissioners, who could then work with Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall for statewide reform.
Haley said that the proposed bill is an attempt to take away the “pet project processes and political processes” that dictate the way money is spent on roads.
Instead, the new roads bill would instead create a system based on traffic, safety, and economic development.
Haley argued that the plan would allow money to go automatically towards roads rather than seeing legislators fighting for money for roads in their districts, which Haley says causes other areas fall by the wayside.
Some House members, including House Speaker Jay Lucas, have argued the Senate measure is a temporary plan that provides a one-time infusion of cash from the state’s General Fund without addressing issues such as the state’s low gasoline tax.
The bill was previously introduced in the House, after which it was sent to the Senate for changes. It is now ultimately in the hands of the House; Haley said she is urging House members to concur with the Senate’s changes or the bill will fail.
Haley also said that she would meet with leaders from both chambers the House and Senate in the future to work out a more permanent reform plan, but that she thinks they should use the current bill to address the problem while they have the opportunity.