In the Debate over Road Funding, Nothing Adds Up

May 5, 2016

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Closeup of calculator keypad

A year ago, we revealed the state was decreasing the road maintenance fund. Not much has improved.

One year ago, The Nerve’s Rick Brundrett posted a story with this admittedly rather anodyne title: “S.C. Highway Maintenance Funding Drops Over the Years.” The piece’s contents, however – assuming you follow the debate over road funding – was pretty jarring:

Average annual funding for the state Department of Transportation’s highway maintenance program dropped by more than $40 million, or nearly 16 percent, during Gov. Nikki Haley’s first four years as governor compared to her predecessor’s administration, a review by The Nerve found.

The drop is even bigger – about $73 million and 25 percent – when adjusted for inflation.

Yet the Republican Haley and state lawmakers want to give more than $255 million next fiscal year, which starts July 1, to the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB), which finances expansion projects, not maintenance. The proposed appropriation is nearly 400 percent higher, adjusted for inflation, than what was budgeted for fiscal 2011-12 after Haley became governor.

Read the whole story here.

In other words, while policymakers in Columbia are demanding that taxpayers shovel more money into the state’s transportation system – while they advocate higher taxes and higher fees in order to repair South Carolina’s deteriorating roads and bridges – the fund dedicated to road maintenance was actually dropping.

That, in our view, should have put a dramatic halt to the road funding debate. Not because it reveals that the state already has enough money to deal with our road problem, but because it reveals that no one has any clue how much is needed to deal with the problem.

Indeed, the entire controversy has been marred by sketchy statistics, bogus studies, and apparently fabricated numbers.

Here are a few.

And here are a few more.

Before you ask a benefactor for more money – in this case, taxpayers – surely you’re obliged to show exactly why current levels of money aren’t sufficient. That’s precisely what hasn’t happened in this debate.