Landess Interview: 75% of New Road Work Goes to Members of SC Alliance to Fix our Roads
SCPC President Ashley Landess was interviewed for a report aired on Columbia television station WIS investigating how contractors who are members of the gas-tax lobbying group, SC Alliance to Fix our Roads, were recently awarded $20 million dollars of new road work contracts by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
As Ashley stated, this is not a surprising development. “[SCFOR’s] members are industry lobbyists, companies that benefit, and this whole tax increase from the beginning – was pushed and promoted by insiders who profit from the Department of Transportation.”
Further, Ashley was asked about the competitive bidding process associated with DOT contracts. WIS noted that ” of the first 45 projects awarded as part of the Roads bill, 13 received just 2 bids – 13 others received only one bid.” In response, Ashley said what many South Carolinians recognize: “That is not what you would call a robust, competitive process ensuring the best deal for taxpayers.”
Back in May when the gas tax bill was still being debated, the Policy Council’s original research revealed that the bill was crafted to make the new revenue eligible to pay down State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) bond debt. The state constitution only permits “non-tax” revenue to be used for revenue bonds, so the legislation reclassified taxes as fees and routed them to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rather than to the Department of Revenue (DOR). This blatantly violates both the constitution and the definition of “fee” in state law.
Policy Council research also pointed out that the governor can fire DOT commissioners at will, giving citizens a new way to exercise accountability over transportation spending decisions.
After the gas tax hike went into effect, we pointed out the four different state entities that had the ability to post the gas tax checkbook online to give citizens an unprecedented level of scrutiny over gas tax revenue spending decisions. A month later, the Comptroller General announced that his office was placing the gas tax account online.
Yesterday’s interview with WIS underscored that the system has not changed, and the Policy Council staff continues to monitor DOT Commission meetings and road spending decisions. We take our role as a watchdog for the South Carolina taxpayers seriously, and as we discover poor transparency and concentrated power, we will keep you informed so that you can hold your government accountable.