Senator ‘Somebody’

April 9, 2015

Inside Insight

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ariail senator somebody


The South Carolina State House is a place where a lot of fingers do a lot of pointing. That’s what legislatures are for, true. What makes our General Assembly weird, though, is that lawmakers rarely point fingers at each other. There are a few exceptions, but generally when lawmakers point fingers, they point them at virtually anyone not in the legislature – at the governor, at heads of executive agencies, at the federal government, and sometimes at disfavored private industries (that is, the industries that don’t have the best lobbyists).

What about the debate over road funding? Everyone seems to agree that South Carolina’s roads are in deplorable shape.

A large group of lawmakers are blaming the problem on a lack of funding. It’s just a revenue problem, they claim – which is a nice way of blaming you, the taxpayer. You haven’t sent enough money to Columbia.

But let’s just leave that argument aside for a moment and assume that somewhere in South Carolina’s $25 billion budget there is enough money to keep a core function of government – our road system – in decent shape.

Let’s ask instead: Who in state government has more power over South Carolina’s transportation funding system than anyone else? You don’t need to work very hard to come up with the answer. A single state senator (1) is President Pro Tempore of the Senate; (2) is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; (3) controls three out of ten appointments to the Joint Transportation Review Committee, which screens candidates for the DOT Commission; (4) controls two of the seven appointments to the Board of Directors of the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which finances new road projects and expansions; (5) sits on the Senate Transportation Committee; and (6) sits on the Budget and Control Board, which controls a vast array of state governmental functions, including procurement; and (7) sits on the Joint Bond Review Committee, which approves bonds for capital projects.

So if a few politically important counties are getting the lion’s share of South Carolina’s transportation money and the other 40 or so have to put up with roads that a third-world country would find shameful, there’s at least one guy who ought to be the object of some finger pointing.

—The Nerve