Fixing roads is one of the most important challenges facing local, state and federal governments. Recognizing its importance, the Association's board of directors adopted the issue as one of the Municipal Association's advocacy initiatives for 2015.
In support of this initiative, Association staff testified last fall and offered several solutions to the House of Representatives" Transportation Infrastructure and Management Ad Hoc Committee that is studying transportation concerns and evaluating possible solutions.
1. Change the state's "C" Fund program to give cities and towns better access to existing road money through more fair representation on County Transportation Committees.
The Association suggested appointing a mayor, a councilmember and a city employee from different cities or towns within a county to each County Transportation Committee.
In counties where county council acts as the CTC, the Association proposed that each county council appoint an advisory committee including at least the same three city officials to advise it on the distribution of "C" Funds.
2. Allow local SCDOT officials to make more local decisions.
City and town officials across the state work very closely with their local SCDOT officials. Because of their first-hand knowledge of the community, the local SCDOT representatives are usually in the best position to make informed decisions about local projects. When state or federal laws do not require involvement from officials in Columbia, local SCDOT officials should have the flexibility to make decisions with city and town officials for the betterment of their districts. When state or federal laws do require involvement from officials in Columbia, input from local SCDOT officials and local governments should be given maximum consideration.
3. Grant municipal elected officials the authority to seek voter approval of local sales taxes to fund transportation infrastructure or any of the other critical needs facing their cities.
Residents in cities and towns sometimes have different needs and desires for services as compared to their neighbors outside municipal boundaries. Municipal elected officials should be able to propose municipal sales taxes that would be subject to voter approval.
4. Provide municipal elected officials revenue flexibility to fund transportation infrastructure.
Relief from the millage caps imposed by Act 388 or relief from the minimum property tax credit requirement for cities in Local Option Sales Tax counties could generate revenue for improving and maintaining local transportation infrastructure.
Transportation funding solutions do not necessarily require an infusion of new money. While some of the proposals outlined above would raise revenues, they would require voter approval through a referendum. Other changes would give municipal residents a bigger voice in decisions that would increase cities' flexibility and accountability to maintain their own local infrastructure.
No matter what solutions are ultimately adopted, South Carolina cities and towns are prepared to play an integral role in addressing the challenge of fixing roads.