S.C. General Assembly: The year in review and what to expect in 2018
South Carolina is one of the nation’s fastest growing states, and the Lowcountry is at the heart of that growth. With our growth and prosperity come growing pains, nowhere more apparent than along our traffic-choked roads. After more than a decade of partisan bickering and hand-wringing, action finally has been taken to address our road needs.
Earlier this legislative session, the governor signed into law my roads plan, which will provide nearly $800 million annually to the newly created Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund. Among other components, the plan raises the state’s gasoline tax 2 cents over six years. This is the first gasoline tax increase in our state in 30 years, and the plan includes competitive safeguards to ensure that at no time will South Carolina’s gas tax be higher than those in North Carolina and Georgia.
As a father of three and a small business owner, I know that taxes impact everyone’s bottom line. That’s why I insisted that the roads plan include an offset, providing South Carolinians a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for vehicle maintenance based on the amount of gasoline they use throughout a year. The rebate will be paid for by gas taxes and other fees collected largely from out-of-state residents.
Now the long process of rebuilding and improving our road network has begun, with contracts already awarded for nearly 200 miles of pavement resurfacing and rehabilitation in 27 counties across the state, including Berkeley. Because South Carolina has the highest rural road fatality rate in the nation, the plan includes funds for urgently needed safety improvements along these roads. And on our interstates, some 140 miles of roadway are being improved. You can find more information about planned road projects at www.dot.state.sc.us/tenyearplan.
Other important highway safety measures enacted include ensuring that mopeds are subject to the same traffic laws as other vehicles on the road, and increasing penalties for speeding and endangering highway and emergency personnel in work zones.
In the new legislative session, which began Jan. 9, expect to see a lot of work related to the failed V.C. Summer nuclear power project. Construction on the joint SCANA / Santee Cooper project came to a halt last year after it was discovered that the cost of the project was grossly underestimated, calling the financial viability of both companies into question. While third-party talks continue around a possible buyout of one or both utilities continue, I remain committed to protecting jobs and ensuring safe and reliable delivery of electric service.
Also likely to be on the 2018 legislative calendar:
• Employee retirement protections
• Ethics and campaign finance reform
• Limiting the amount of time that a court could stop a construction project when an environmental permit is under appeal
Sen. Grooms, a Republican, represents S.C. Senate District 37, which includes Daniel Island and portions of Berkeley and Charleston counties. Contact him at 803-212-6402 or LarryGrooms@scsenate.gov.