Beaufort Chamber worries Senate inaction on road repairs could hurt tourism

A plan to raise gas tax by $700 million to be sent to the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is dead in the Senate. As the 2015 session came to a close, Senator Tom Davis ended on a three week long filibuster to block the tax hike. Now, some are skeptical of lawmakers’ inaction in funding road repairs. 

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce says roads are in desperate need of repair. Although the Chamber will not weigh-in on whether the gas tax should be raised in hopes of fixing roads, they believe faster action is imperative. Otherwise, they say tourism could be impacted.  

“[We are] extremely disappointed that the legislature was unable to coalesce around the number one issue facing all industries in the state of South Carolina,” Chamber President and CEO Blakely Williams says.

Davis fought for a $415 million surplus to directly fund road repairs. 

I mean, that’s money in hand. That’s money that can immediately by the General Assembly to County Transportation Committees. Those CTCs can hold public hearings locally. They can figure out what they’re going to fix locally. Citizens can be engaged, and they can immediately start hiring contractors, vendors, and supplymen to actually get work done. People are actually going to see potholes being filled and road repairs being made,” Davis told NEWS 3. 

Williams just hopes some immediacy will be on the minds of lawmakers at their next chance in funding roads. 

“If tourists experience negative impacts with traffic, we’re going to start to see those decline,” Williams says. “So, fixing the roads and infrastructure in this great state has to be the top priority as we head into next year’s 2016 legislative session.”

The House and Senate approved $150 million for road repairs. However, the Department of Transportation says they would need at least $400 million to keep roads in their current condition.

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