PICKENS – A proposal to take $600 million from the general fund for South Carolina’s road maintenance problems comes up lacking in the eyes of Pickens County’s state senator.
SC Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens made the comments in a room full of local business people Thursday where he had been invited to speak to the Pickens Chamber of Commerce.
None of them openly objected to his suggestion that the real answer is more funding for significant road improvement that, in his opinion, are needed to sustain the state’s economic development efforts.
“If you think $600 million from the general fund is going to be enough, you’re crazy,” Martin said. “Then you have education and Medicaid,” he added concerned about tapping sources for education and healthcare. “We have got to have a well-trained workforce. In the future there will be very few jobs for unskilled labor.
He got some crowd support for increased gasoline taxes to help support road maintenance. Members of the crowd also offered tax increase options.
And they also offered support for his comments that the lack of response to road maintenance funding needs “is more about a desire to get re-elected than doing the right thing.”
Martin and the Pickens chamber are not alone in statewide business circles in their belief that road the time may have come for more tax revenue for roads.
Lewis F. Gossett, President and CEO of the SC Manufacturer’s Alliance, made a similar proposal three months ago to a gathering of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce. He also offered his concern that manufacturers looking for a way to get goods from the Port of Charleston to points of distribution through the Southeastern United States will look to other states if South Carolina Roads can’t handle the traffic. Gossett said that parts of I-20 and I-95 are slowed to a crawl at times even now.
Gossett suggested the General Assembly look at a penny and a half gas tax increase indexed on today’s rates.
Part of the reason Gossett and others find the tax so appropriate is that is paid to a large extent by tourists traveling from out of state.
Pickens Chamber of Commerce President Mike Parrott asked Martin Thursday “Where is the leadership on this cause I’m not seeing it.”
Martin in his said too many legislators are worried they will not get re-elected if they propose a tax increase.
The senator who started his General Assembly experience in the House of Representatives in 1979, said that he was mentored by people who were not so guided by the need to be re-elected. “We went on at one another and fought over things, but the people who mentored me were people who were more interested in doing what is right,” Martin said.
“I don’t want to get defeated, but I’m in a place where if I was, I’d be all right. I’d rather do what is right.”