January 15, 2014
The South Carolina Trucking Association applauds the actions taken by the General Assembly in 2013 to fund some road system improvements, as well as the bold leadership of Rep. Tommy Stringer (R-Spartanburg), Senator Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) and a few others who have introduced potentially significant long-term funding solutions for critical road improvements. We believe the motor fuels user-fee – both increased and indexed – is the proper and primary user-fee mechanism for this generation to fund road and bridge improvements. This is certainly the case with respect to commercial fleets.
It is a political fact that no gubernatorial candidate can endorse "tax" increases and expect to win, and a veto would be practically impossible to override. This makes 2014 a very challenging year for a comprehensive solution. The best that can be hoped for is a willingness to raise a few fees, and an acknowledgement that “all options must be on the table” when the time is right for serious discussions. Growing public and private-sector awareness of the realty of the situation will eventually compel elected officials to act on a comprehensive, statewide basis. All the while, our competitor states are well ahead of us.
Our hope is that the legislature in 2014 will – at the least - complete the transfer of vehicle sales tax revenue, as well as dedicate more General Fund growth/surpluses to support the highway program. In the meantime, the SC DOT will be conducting major interstate corridor studies to determine how best to move forward with the costly and time-consuming but economically-necessary expansions and improvements.
Despite the fact that it will increase business costs, which ultimately consumers pay, the South Carolina Trucking Association will support a substantial and reasonable motor fuel user-fee increase, properly dedicated to priority projects. We would urge the legislature and the governor to work together to find this to be the best, most sensible solution - no matter how politically painful it may be.
Leaders (like Dwight D. Eisenhower and his interstate system) who show courage and vision by laying out a map for a safe and efficient highway system should be championed not vilified.
For the record:
• SCTA supports increasing and indexing the motor fuels user-fee, provided the revenues are dedicated to highway improvements based upon prioritization as specified in the law, and implemented by the SC DOT. For commercial motor vehicles, now and in the future, the motor fuel user-fee works.
• SCTA would also support the use of a statewide, general sales tax to fund road improvements.
• SCTA does not support significant truck registration fee increases, as they are “flat fees” - as high as $800 annually, and don’t account actual use, like the fuel user-fee does.
• We favor the use of bonds only when necessary, as they increase the net costs of many projects.
• We generally oppose tolls, as they are very costly to administer, are practical only in very limited situations, are easily evaded - creating a host of other problems, and they render routes and regions non-competitive.
• We strongly oppose tolling of existing lanes of roadways, as trucks pay fuel taxes and registration fees to every state through which they operate - this is not the case with cars -and because they are anti-business, discriminatory, and generally prohibited by federal law.
• We don’t oppose tolling only new capacity, but is likely impractical, primarily due to traffic volumes/lack of 24-hour density, along with the previous concerns.