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Hope everyone had a safe and happy July 4! Last week’s report got hijacked by COVID – so there’s a little “old” news mixed in with the new! 

Final Phase-in of "Gas Tax" Complete

The two-cent increase to the state's "gas tax" (which is actually a user fee) occurred on July 1 and we are willing to wager that no one even noticed. 

This final consecutive increase brings South Carolina's rate for gasoline and diesel to 28.75 cents per gallon. Still lower than our sister states and the national average of 38.69 cents.

Every year since the passage of Act 40 (2017), SCFOR has followed the retail price of gas at the pump on July 1. The price at the pump was consecutively lower than the previous year for four years. It wasn't until 2021, as the nation was beginning to emerge from the pandemic, that the retail price of gas was higher than the previous year. 

Sure, it's only two cents, but it is funny how even after a statutorily required increase occurs, the price at the pump didn't budge two cents from the day or week before. In fact, the price of gas has actually fallen 12.5 cents since last week's increase. 

Remember, no matter the price of gas, the state gets the same amount of money. So every time you or out-of-state visitors fill up in South Carolina, 28 cents per gallon goes to maintain, repair, and improve the state's roads and bridges.

FY22-23 State Budget in Effect

Legislators returned last week to finalize the state budget for the FY22-23 fiscal year that began July 1. Thanks to the recurring and one-time investments made this year, South Carolina is poised to put federal and state dollars to work to tackle the needs of our growing state. 

SCFOR tracked six run-off elections for the SC House of Representatives in the June 28 Primary Elections. Results are detailed below:
Incumbents Roger Kirby (Florence) and Cezar McKnight (Williamsburg) were drawn into the same district House District 101. It was a tight race again, with Kirby defeating McKnight by only 35 votes. He will not face opposition in November.

Rep. Kirby is a realtor and appraiser and resides in Lake City. He has served in the House representing District 61 since 2015 and currently serves on the Labor, Commerce & Industry Committee.
Wendell Jones is a pastor at Changing Your Mind Ministries in Greenville. He had the endorsement of Rep. Leola Robinson-Simpson, who is retiring from the District 25 seat.  Jones will face Republican Yvonne Julian, Independent Tony Boyce, and Libertarian Jack Logan in the November general election.
Brian Lawson resides in Chesnee, and he is the Director of Operations at American TransMed, Inc. in Gaffney. He does not face opposition in November. 
Brandon Guffey is the owner of 360 supply in Rock Hill and serves on York County Council. He had the endorsement of Rep. Bruce Bryant, who is retiring from the District 48 seat. Guffey will face Democratic challenger Andrew Russell in November.
Joe White is a retired small business owner who served in the Air Force in the Vietnam War. White does not face opposition in November. 
Val Guest resides in Surfside Beach and is an attorney with Ouverson, Guest & Carter, PA. He will face Democrat Ryan Thompson in November.

SC Ports’ Melvin Takes the Helm as President and CEO

South Carolina Ports’ Barbara Melvin stepped into her new role as president and CEO on July 1, marking the first woman to lead a top 10 US operating container port.

Over the past 24 years, Melvin has served SC Ports in a variety of roles and led major infrastructure projects. Melvin has served as the port’s chief operating officer since 2018.

“I am truly honored to lead our amazing team at SC Ports, who I have had the privilege of working with over the past two decades,” Melvin said. “Alongside our partners, we will work together to achieve operational excellence, deliver new infrastructure and grow our cargo base in support of our customers and our communities.”

Melvin is the sixth leader in the history of SC Ports. She succeeds Jim Newsome, who served as president and CEO of SC Ports for the past 13 years.

View the full press release here.

Beaufort County Penny Tax for Roads Delayed, Green Space Up for Consideration

With questions about the projects on the original list and not enough time to make voters excited about an extra penny on their products, Beaufort County Council feels like waiting on a transportation penny is the best move.

The County plans to look toward state and federal funding to help ease the road issues in the meantime.

So instead of transportation, Beaufort County Council is considering a green space referendum for November, which allows counties to implement a sales tax to buy undeveloped land and preserve it.

The referendum is made possible by legislation sponsored by Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) that passed this year.

The County Council held a first reading of the proposed tax last week. That penny could yield about $350 million over ten years to protect the "green" areas.

"Maybe buying up large tracts of land and setting it aside, so it's not developed," said Senator Davis. "In other instances, it may be going into communities that have already been permitted and buy down the density, so it's not so developed."

"If we simply sit back and do nothing, in about ten years, we will have about double the rooftops we currently have in Beaufort County. This particular ecosystem simply cannot sustain that level of intense development."

Council wants to make sure it's not too much of a hit to people's pockets, so they are still deciding if they put a whole penny on the ballot.

The second reading will be this month, with a third and final reading in August.

Source: WSAV-TV

U.S. DOT Announces New Grant Funding Opportunities

Last week, the USDOT released details on two new discretionary grant programs created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA):

  • The Railroad Crossing Elimination Program seeks to fund projects that will improve safety and eliminate traffic delays that occur at grade crossings. $573 million is available to state and local governments for projects that separate vehicle and train traffic.
  • The Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program has $195 million in eligible funds, including up to $145 million for capital construction grants. The program seeks to remove/reconstruct roads, railroads, or other transportation facilities that are barriers to connecting communities.

Source: ARTBA Newsline

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