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STIB Works to Finalize Evaluation Criteria
The Evaluation Committee of the SC State Transportation Infrastructure Bank held an informal work session on Wednesday afternoon to discuss draft changes to the application and evaluation process.  Committee members had a very open and candid conversation (that lasted nearly 3 hours) regarding the current procedures as well as the proposed changes included in a working document distributed to committee members.

STIB Chairman John White opened the meeting by outlining two components of what he felt the Committee should use as guidance when it comes to streamlining and improving the application/evaluation process.

1.  Capacity (What is the financial capacity of the Bank?)

2.  Strategic Goals (What are the strategic goals with how the Bank uses the money?)

White emphasized the importance of looking to find the best use of funds, with the best return on investment. He also added that anything the STIB could do to complement the SCDOT’s plan and help address key areas of need across the state would be ideal.

Committee members focused on key components of the application scoring that relate to (1) public benefit; and (2) financial details (i.e., match, revenue types, etc.) 

Joe Taylor continued to express concerns about advertising “economic development” when soliciting applications and instead urged committee members to look at encouraging applicants to assess the statewide impact of their particular project. Taylor said that he believed the legislative intent of the STIB's role was to require the Bank to fund projects that had statewide significance - and with that would come regional benefits.

Attention was given to the amount of money that many applicants spend on generating data and plans during the application process, and members of the committee agreed that applications needed to be clear and perhaps a template would be helpful.

SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall echoed the importance of trying to establish criteria that would work to address strategic goals.  She encouraged members of the Committee to continue doing test runs of the application process using the draft recommendations to see how various projects would score.  These efforts help to bring potential unintended consequences of the scoring criteria to the surface.

White said that he hoped that the overall results would provide for a process that was  “objective, strategic, and financially feasible.”

While details have not been released regarding the proposed changes, here are just a few of the ideas that were discussed during Evaluation Committee Work Session:

  • Announcing bonding capacity and solicit applications at one time on an annual basis.
  • Clarify who has discretion over parts of the application process.  (i.e., roles of STIB staff, Evaluation Committee members, and Bank Board members to make the process more efficient.)
  • Match Requirements/Sliding Score Scale (The higher the applicant match, the higher the score)
  • Addressing what is acceptable for an “in-kind match.”
  • Provide a clear template to make the application process easier.
  • Attempt to avoid unintended consequences of creating a numerical score that doesn’t quantify legitimate needs.  (i.e., traffic volume and accident date don’t translate into a priority.)
It is important to remember that nothing has been finalized yet and these were merely aspects of the discussion.  It is evident that members of the Committee want to wrap up this process so the Bank can begin soliciting projects – as soon (and objectively) as possible. Stay tuned…

Loftis Wins Senate 6 Primary
Longtime House member, Rep. Dwight Loftis is one step closer to joining the SC Senate.  Loftis won Tuesday’s Republican Primary for the District 6 Senate seat. Loftis received 55% of the vote, defeating two opponents - Greenville City Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle (40%) and Jeffrey Stringer (4%).

Loftis will face Democrat Tina Belge in the special general election on March 26.

The special primary was spurred when U.S. Rep. William Timmons gave up the Senate seat after being elected to Congress in November.

District 6 covers part of northern Greenville County, including Travelers Rest, Berea, Wade Hampton, and North Main.

McMaster Outlines Priorities for Team SC
Governor Henry McMaster’s State of the State Address on Wednesday evening centered around many of the areas that he focused on during his campaign and addressed in his FY19-20 Executive Budget.  Two of the most prominent issues that are likely to see movement this session are reforms to education and taxes.

Education:  Governor McMaster again promised to fight for a 5% raise for teachers, a small increase in wide-ranging funding and a $100 million fund to bring business and opportunity to the most-disadvantaged school systems in rural communities.  Education reforms will continue to gain traction as Governor McMaster, and legislative leaders in both chambers have already penned a letter to the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office urging a thorough review of the education funding formula, and comprehensive reform bills have also been introduced in both the House and Senate.

Tax Reform:  Governor McMaster also called on the legislature to reform the state’s marginal income and corporate tax rates and encouraged them to return $200 million of surplus money to taxpayers. Legislators in both the House and Senate have tasked special committees to address tax reforms this legislative session.  It is unclear how deep the legislature wants to dive into the tax reform pool, but all signs point to an attempt to couple income and sales tax reforms together.

What about infrastructure?
Governor McMaster did mention infrastructure as a whole and the overall importance of having a sound infrastructure to support South Carolina’s economy and to bring opportunity to rural communities in South Carolina.

 “We must also continue to invest in infrastructure. Our ports, roads, and rail are critical components of our economic prosperity,” said McMaster.  Governor McMaster went on to tout the deepening of the Charleston Harbor and said that once the project is completed Charleston will have the “deepest, most efficient harbor on the Atlantic” which will spur economic growth throughout the state. He added that in the years ahead the continued growth would result in a revitalized Port of Georgetown and a new Port of Jasper.

Governor McMaster also praised the SCDOT and the National Guard for their work during the Hurricanes and flooding to protect people, roads, and bridges, crediting their efforts as “a remarkable feat of cooperation, engineering, science, hydrology, technology, and collaboration.”

Governor McMaster concluded his speech with a similar tone that he used in his inauguration speech. He reminded legislators that they are all on the same team and need to work together for the good of South Carolina.

Senator John Scott (D-Richland) gave the Democratic response to the State of the State.  Senator Scott said that his party wants to work McMaster, but only if the Governor realized that Republican policies are leaving too many people behind. Scott pointed out that only people in select parts of the state prospered and said there are still extensive tracts of poverty.

The State of the State can be viewed here. 

Introductions of Interest
S.385 – DBE/MBE Contracts
Primary Sponsor:  Senator John Matthews (D-Orangeburg)
The bill removes the $250,000 threshold for DBE/MBE contracts and instead broadens the statute to include subcontracts for contractors and consultants involved in highway and bridge construction and maintenance.

S. 401 – Utility Relocation
Sponsor:  Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley)
The bill relates to road construction projects and impacts on local water and sewer lines. Water and sewer utilities would be classified as large or small, and reimbursements of costs by SCDOT would be based on the respective classification.

H.3739 – Toll I-95
Primary Sponsor: Rep. Robert Ridgeway (D-Clarendon)
The bill would impose a toll along Interstate Highway 95 where it crosses Lake Marion in either Orangeburg County or Clarendon County. The revenue collected from the toll would be used for the maintenance, upgrade, and expansion of the highway and interchanges of I-95.
The Most Annoying Tax Credit?
The Post and Courier reviewed the new tax credits available for 2018 and among those was the fuel tax/preventative maintenance tax credit included in Act 40.  Here’s what they had to say:
The new “motor fuel income tax credit” is, for a typical motorist, hardly worth the trouble it takes to claim it. This unnecessarily complicated break was created as part of South Carolina’s gas-tax hike, to reduce the impact on state residents. The bottom line is, to get the credit you’re supposed to have kept receipts for all the fuel purchased during the year, and receipts for auto maintenance work, and you’ll need to fill out an extra tax form. In return, you could get about $10 off your taxes (roughly two-thirds of the extra tax that would have been paid on 500 gallons of gas).

Regardless of what you think about the tax credit, it will be interesting to see how many taxpayers claim the credit.  We have a feeling there are a few folks out there who have kept up with a year’s worth of receipts - and they are ready to collect on their tax credit.
Mayors Call for Infrastructure Deal & Urge Congress to Learn From Them
Pursuing a federal infrastructure package is a top priority for mayors this year, according to Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, S.C.  Benjamin, who kicked off the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting Jan. 23, identified infrastructure, innovation and inclusion as the three pillars that make up the organization’s most pressing goals.

In addition, Many mayors formed a chorus of voices expressing frustration over the shutdown and calling for national leaders to work together.  “Every day, mayors put aside our partisan difference and find common ground on even the most difficult of issues,” Benjamin said. “We don’t have the luxury of turning our back on our residents. It’s time for Washington to take a page out of our playbook.”

Read the full article here.
Highway Users Alliance Endorses Federal Highway Administration Nominee
In a press release this week, the American Highway Users Alliance announced that they strongly support the nomination of former National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Nicole Nason as the next Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Highway Users President & CEO Greg Cohen commented, "The Federal Highway Administration needs a leader who will work diligently to drive down the traffic fatality rate and focus on road safety.  Ms. Nason is an excellent choice to lead the agency in its safety efforts.  Her background at NHTSA and MADD gives her an incredible depth of knowledge on these pressing issues."

"Additionally, Nason's extensive expertise in vehicle safety is extremely helpful as the burgeoning autonomous vehicle era begins.  If confirmed as the new Federal Highway Administrator, she will lead the agency as it sets minimum safety standards for such vehicles, making her a great fit for the job."

"The Highway Users fully supports Nicole Nason to become the next FHWA Administrator and urges a speedy confirmation."
South Carolina’s roads and bridges will continue to be one of the top issues facing the state for many years to come. As the new state revenues are phased in, SCFOR understands the importance of publicly promoting both progress and patience; while continuing to urge policymakers at all levels of government to be proactive about infrastructure needs and investments. 
Questions regarding your 2019 SCFOR membership?
Please contact Jennifer Patterson via email or by phone at (803)417-6256.
2018 - 2019 Newsletter Archive
Copyright © 2019 South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, All rights reserved.

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