S.C. legislator seeks ‘pennies for potholes’

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comDecember 5, 2013 

— If residents want to pay pennies for pavement, they may get the chance.

S.C. Rep. Raye Felder, who represents the Fort Mill area, is looking to create a new funding source for road improvements in York County. The idea is similar to Pennies for Progress, which lets county voters pass a one-cent sales tax for seven years at a time for new road construction. The Pennies program can’t, however, be used for road maintenance.

“Those monies can only be used for new infrastructure,” Felder said.

Wednesday was the first of two days to pre-file bills for the 2014 state House of Representatives session. House Speaker Bobby Harrell received 53 bills that were assigned numbers and committees. Anything submitted after Dec. 10 won’t be introduced and referred to committee until the legislative session opens Jan. 14.

House bill 4356 would allow counties to charge up to two cents more for gas and put that money toward resurfacing, potholes, road marking or similar projects. Like Pennies, county voters would have to support the local tax by approving a referendum. Felder is the only listed sponsor of the bill now assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. There’s a mirror bill in the Senate.

Felder said a new law could allow for $4 million in annual revenue in York County and it “allows everyone that uses our roads to help fund that.” Including, she said, people who come from North Carolina just to buy gas that’s less expensive here. Those motorists use the roads but often don’t purchase other goods except gas, so they wouldn’t be contributing to a sales tax on other items or property tax, Felder said.

In three votes since 1997, Pennies for Progress has become an increasingly popular program based on voter reaction. It also created many miles of road in the county.

“We’ve got to find a way to maintain those roads,” Felder said.

Bruce Henderson began on York County Council at a time when the area saw two of its coldest and wettest winters in decades. Former Councilman Tom Smith and Henderson, who took over representing Dist. 2, heard almost daily complaints during that time concerning road conditions.

“If you would’ve put two or three cents on this thing they wouldn’t have cared,” Henderson said of constituents, “because they wanted the roads repaired.”

Even in recent months Council members discussed some type of special tax for road maintenance. Felder’s effort in Columbia, Henderson said, could be that answer. An answer that’s needed as roads naturally deteriorate, he said, including the new ones.

“Some of it was some of the Pennies projects that had just been completed,” Henderson said.

Henderson believes the public would take to the idea.

“I have a feeling you’d have a pretty good majority who’d support it,” he said.

Felder says funding road repairs will be less costly than constructing new ones. She’s also hopeful voters behind Pennies for Progress will get behind a maintenance funding vote.

“It was Pennies for Progress,” Felder said. “Now it’s pennies for potholes.”

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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