Update: The bill making the Infrastructure Bank accountable to the Department of Transportation is now on Governor Haley’s desk!
This legislative session (2015-2016), we’ve advocated for transportation reform: a change in the way the State Infrastructure Bank (STIB) does business is essential for improvements to South Carolina infrastructure. The state of South Carolina has limited transportation dollars, extensive maintenance needs, and a backlog of critical projects. If we truly intend to improve our economy and maintain our quality of life, we have to put transportation decisions into the hands of people who will be accountable and are willing to make responsible and fair decisions.
In our state we have both a SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and a State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB). The infrastructure bank is governed by a political board and is a separate agency from the SCDOT. Thirty one other states have infrastructure banks, and 30 of those are part of their state’s transportation department. Ours is the sole outlier: it is also the largest and most active. It is, consequently, the largest slush fund for transportation spending in America.
We advocated to eliminate the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank’s political board and give the bank’s bonding authority to the SCDOT to fund projects of statewide priority.
The 2016 Legislative Audit of the STIB came to the same conclusion. Read more about the audit here.
After a decade of efforts to reform this political spending system, the roads bill passed by the House and Senate matched our position. The bill places STIB decisions under the control of SCDOT, forcing infrastructure bank projects to go through the same prioritization process as SCDOT projects. In effect, the STIB will act more like a bank for the SCDOT and the state transportation improvement plan instead of a separate, decision making body. If you don’t think this type of oversight is necessary, look no further than I-526 in Charleston County, a project that held up $420million in bonding capacity for 10 years and did not rank as a priority on the statewide list, or the recent allocation of $100 million to four-lane S.C. 51 from Florence to Pamplico.
We thank the legislature for increasing accountability in transportation spending. We will continue to mark the progress of these reforms as well as promote innovative transportation solutions in the statewide plan for the years to come.