COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD) — The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce is calling for state senators to take a vote on a roads plan, and wants a penalty if they don’t. “In the business community, you don’t get paid if you don’t do your job,” says Ted Pitts, president of the state Chamber. “So today, what I’m calling for is I want every South Carolina senator to start returning their paycheck back to the taxpayer on a daily basis for every day they fail to start voting on the amendments on the desk.”
He says senators have had a roads plan on their desks for 321 days, so it’s past time for them to vote. The reason they haven’t is because several senators are filibustering to block a vote. Spartanburg Sen. Lee Bright currently holds the floor. “This bill has a tax increase in it, as it came over from the House,” he says. “My concern is even if the Senate strips the tax increase it goes back over to the House, House puts the tax increase back on and the next thing you know you put a burden on the taxpayer. We’ve got the existing funds to fix the roads if we just prioritize road funding.”
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, filibustered for the final weeks of the session last year and continued this year until Sen. Bright took over. Both say the $1.3 billion in additional money the state has is enough to take care of road needs without a tax increase.
Other lawmakers argue that most of that $1.3 billion is needed for other needs like education, health care, and law enforcement.
But Jerry Smith, with the SC Trucking Association, says, “If our legislature spent every dime of this year’s surplus, that amount of money would still be far short of what would be needed for next year. So it raises the question: what about next year?”
The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups rallied at the Statehouse Tuesday to demand that senators take action. Cathy Novinger, with the Palmetto AgriBusiness Council, says drivers are concerned. “They’re worried about the safety of our unsafe roads and bridges, our hazardous roads. They’re worried about the cost to their vehicles, to their trucks, to their cars, the costs that go on and on and on every year. They’re worried about the loss of jobs in this state because it is an economic impact issue,” she told reporters.
Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, president pro tempore of the Senate, says Pitts request that senators return their pay doesn’t deserve a response. He says senators haven’t voted to end the filibuster because if they do it would trigger a rule that limits the length of debate on each amendment to 10 minutes. There are more than 300 amendments on the bill and he says some of them will need more than 10 minutes to properly debate them.