S.C. Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, discussed the bills passed during this year’s legislative session and the issues that will be among the General Assembly’s future priorities during a luncheon on Thursday. The Republican spoke during a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Aiken at Cumberland Village.
“One of the things we did this session is we made a step in the right direction toward addressing our infrastructure needs in the state,” Young said. “We were able to come up with $600 million to repair and improve roads and bridges.”
Some of that money will be used to widen a portion of Interstate 20 between Columbia and Aiken to six lanes from four.
“There is a $50 million one-time allocation for bridge repairs, and there are four bridges in Aiken County that should receive some of that funding,” Young said.
But over the next 20 years, the projections show that the state will have $29 billion in infrastructure needs, and raising the South Carolina’s gas tax is a possibility, he said.
“We have to sit down and look at the revenue that we currently have, how it is being spent and how we are going to meet those needs with the existing revenue stream,” Young said. “It is going to be very difficult to do that without having some discussion about the current gas tax.”
South Carolina’s gas tax, which is officially known as the motor fuel user fee, is 16 cents per gallon. The amount is among the lowest in the country. The Palmetto State also has an inspection fee of $.0025 and an environmental impact fee of $.0050 for all petroleum products.
“I’ve been trying to get feedback from my constituents (in District 24) on what their position would be if the General Assembly was to increase the gas tax by three cents, four cents, five cents or whatever it might be and have it (the money) go solely to road and bridge improvements,” Young said. “The (S.C.) Department of Transportation has said we need at least $600 million a year in new money to address these needs – not existing money, but new money.”
Other big issues during 2014’s legislative session, according to Young, will include ethics reform, early voting, “further restructuring of state government,” school funding reform and the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which was rejected this year.
Drug testing for people who receive unemployment benefits and other assistance probably will be another important topic for the General Assembly, Young said. A texting while driving ban also could be considered.
South Carolina and Montana are the only two states in the nation that have not passed any sort of legislation to regulate the use of electronic devices in cars. However, some cities and towns in South Carolina have banned texting while driving.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES S.C. Sen. Tom Young, left, spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Aiken on Tuesday. Members of the audience included Tad Barker and Buzz Rich.×