When Gov. Nikki Haley gave her fourth State of the State address Wednesday night, she asked lawmakers to support her plans to improve state roads and schools without a tax increase. But now some lawmakers, even from own party, say the plans aren’t realistic because the funding is too uncertain.
To improve roads, the governor wants to use the “new” money that shows up in most years. The Board of Economic Advisors estimates how much they think the state will collect in taxes and lawmakers write the state budget based on that figure. But that number then gets updated in May, toward the end of the budget process, and in most years there’s more money available than first expected.
Gov. Haley wants that additional money to go toward fixing roads. “According to the Department of Transportation, those dollars invested in the right way will be worth more than $1.3 billion in additional road and bridge improvements. That is prioritizing,” she told lawmakers.
But Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, says, “If we’re going to try to fund roads on monies that we may or may not have, then it’s not a priority.”
He says there needs to be a certain, stable source of funds for roads.
She would also use new money from growth in the state to pay for her plan to improve schools. She wants to send about $100 million to the state’s high-poverty school districts, and spend about another $60 million on reading coaches in elementary schools and new technology in all schools.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, says the funding for the governor’s transportation and education plans is too vague.
“Most of what she talked about requires budgetary moves and she didn’t tell us how to do that or where to take the money from, and that’s where the guts is. I mean, that’s where the rubber meets the road. And if we can’t figure that out on our own, her initiatives may not pass,” he says.
Her plans are getting support, though, from other Republican leaders. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, said after the speech, “It’ll be my job to take that wish list and turn it into the Senate’s to-do list.”