(Published in the Daily Journal)

By Bill Sandifer

I am grateful to have spent the summer months at home in our district, meeting with many of you and hearing about the issues that matter most to the people here. This time at home prepared me well for my mid-August annual planning retreat with my House Republican colleagues. During the retreat, we were able, as a group, to set priorities for the upcoming year.

While there are many important issues facing us in 2015, the number one thing that seems to be on everyone’s minds is improving our roads. The state of our roads is an everyday concern not only for individual citizens, but also our state as a whole. These repairs are critical to our quality of life, and ensuring South Carolina continues to attract new businesses and higher paying jobs. I look for legislation to be introduced that will identify long- and short-term funding solutions for this problem.

I am fully in agreement with the governor that it would make sense to devote any kind of difference in revenue projections to our roads. In other words, the House creates the first version of the budget based on projections from the Board of Economic Advisors (BEA). Later in the year, when the budget moves to the Senate, the BEA updates those revenue projections, which, most years, are higher than the original ones. I believe it would be fairly easy to pass a law that if there’s a difference between the projections, the extra money would go straight to road repairs. It doesn’t completely solve the problem, but would be a fairly straightforward way of providing money that isn’t already allocated in the House budget.

Beyond that, however, we must identify an already-existing funding source in order to maintain our roads on an ongoing basis. For example, if we could use 100 percent of the sales tax on automobiles to pay for road and bridge repair. There are, obviously, other sources of revenue that could be used for this purpose, but we must continue to look for ways to be resourceful with the money we already have – and work to solve what is clearly an ever-present problem.

We should not use this as an excuse to raise taxes or fees of any kind. Raising gas tax, for example, hurts families and raises transportation costs for businesses that, in turn, provide jobs. Every day we wait to improve our roads hits our economy, by increasing our costs to make the repairs later, when our roads are in worse shape. I am optimistic we’ll see legislation introduced in 2015 to address this important topic.

Another very high priority for us this year will once again be ethics reform. Many of you have echoed my own passion to see the House introduce a new bill on this subject again in 2015 after last year’s bill died in the Senate. I firmly believe that it is time for South Carolina to eliminate any law that sets elected or appointed officials, or candidates, apart from everyone else. For example, it absolutely should be mandated that third-party activists and elected officials report the sources of their incomes. My colleagues and I are committed to doing all we can to see this legislation happen, though a small minority in the Senate was able to prevent its passage last year.

As I mentioned in previous columns, 2014 was a tremendously productive year for your state government. We worked hard to pass a number of significant, and, I believe, beneficial, laws. I see 2015 being another year when we can do much to improve the lives of all South Carolinians, attract new business and investment, and maintain a high level of integrity in all we do.

My number one priority remains constituent service and I count serving you well at the state level as a part of that. If you are not already receiving my updates, please send me an email at bill@sandifer.us. I work hard to keep you updated on what’s happening with your state government with a variety of tools like my recent end-of-session letter, monthly columns, Facebook and website posts, and e-messages. And, as always, I greatly appreciate the honor of representing you. If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Bill Sandifer represents Oconee County’s District 2 in the South Carolina House. Sandifer can be reached at 864.885.2240 or bill@sandifer.us. You also can connect with him on Facebook or visit his website www.BillSandifer.com to sign up to receive updates via email.