16 Feb Road Improvement Funding
Last week two road improvement funding proposals – the House Transportation Infrastructure Ad-Hoc Committee (H.3579) and one resembling Governor Nikki Haley’s plan (H.3580) – were introduced. Both bills head to the House Ways and Means Committee where work will begin to find common ground. The House’s Ad-Hoc Committee plan includes restructuring the SCDOT and the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB), transferring roads to counties and added funding mechanisms. The House plan is expected to generate $350 million or more annually. The House plan would reduce the motor fuel excise tax from 16.75 cents to 10.75 cents while removing the 6-percent sales tax exemption on wholesale gasoline and other motor fuels. Additionally, the $300 cap on the sales tax on vehicles would be increased to $500. The plan also restructures the SCDOT, with the Governor appointing the Highway Commission and the Commission in-turn appointing a Secretary of Transportation with the advice and consent of the SC Senate. In her State of the State address, Governor Haley released her infrastructure funding plan, a three-pronged approach to increase the gasoline tax by 10-cents over the next three years, coupled with SCDOT restructuring and a 30-percent income tax reduction (from 7-percent to 5-percent). With the filing of these two bills House Speaker Jay Lucas stated, “Today is a great day for South Carolina because we have two different roads plans that share the goal of repairing our infrastructure. The bottom line is that both the House and the Governor are focused on fixing our roads while simultaneously making our government more efficient. Moving forward, Governor Haley and the House will continue to engage in open conversations. I am confident we will find common ground in the near future given the progress we have made thus far.”
Regulatory Reform – a Plus for SC Businesses
Government red tape and over-regulation burden job creators and stifle small business start-ups. We hear this repeatedly from business owners. This week we passed a regulatory reform law in the House placing a sunset provision on all regulation laws. Many regulation laws are outdated, and this new measure would give an automatic expiration to those laws five years after implementation. This ensures we don’t have cumbersome and outdated regulations hampering business owners. The bill now heads to the Senate where we hope they will join us in lending a hand to the SC’s businesses and innovators that drive our economy.
Protecting the Unborn
The Pain-Capable Child Protection Act has passed the House with a vote of 80-27. The House approved this same bill last year, where it died in the Senate. The legislation bans abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy; the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of development. Abortion is presently legal in SC through 24 weeks of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, the third trimester, abortions are banned in the state unless the mother’s life is in danger.
Ethics – House Moves Forward
The House took additional steps this week to pass the next set of ethics reform legislation – part of our larger ethics reform package. We passed the Whistleblower and Public Employee Protection Act providing public employees legal protections and substantially increased financial incentives for reporting unethical behavior when your tax dollars are on the line. We approved another bill that removes loopholes in our existing ethics statues – the act also gives clarity to the proper use of political campaign dollars.