Democrat Jen Gibson and Republican Mark Smith are running for the South Carolina House of Representatives District 99 seat left vacant by Nancy Mace, who is running for U.S. House of Representatives. The candidates were invited to share their thoughts on securing financial support for Charleston-area infrastructure, where the funds would come from, and why they thought they were the best candidate to make that happen.
Broaden definition of infrastructure development
Solving our infrastructure issues will significantly improve our quality of life. I am excited to share my plan to improve our existing roads and bring more infrastructure dollars to fund new projects in the Charleston area.
As your representative, I plan to introduce legislative reforms that allow the SCDOT to execute its statewide strategic plan that prioritizes many Charleston-area infrastructure projects.
I recommend the following changes:
• Use all the money collected from the gas tax increase to maintain and repair our primary road system.
• Return non-federal aid secondary routes to local governments and fund maintenance and improvements through the existing county funding program.
• Abolish the SC Transportation Infrastructure Bank and Department of Transportation Commission and return control to the SCDOT.
• Reduce redundancy by consolidating statewide and county planning into one strategic plan.
South Carolina has underfunded road maintenance for decades, and recent reforms were too little, too late. We passed the gas tax increase to pay for road maintenance, but we divert the funds to other purposes. It will take decades to get our roads back to a “good” rating. New roads and bridges cannot come at the expense of maintaining our existing roads and bridges.
Traffic congestion costs the average Charlestonian over $1,000 a year. Investing a little today will save even more tomorrow. We need to add funding sources to pay for new infrastructure development. We can continue to partner with large businesses in the area to finance local road projects that benefit their business interests. The legislature should also explore new ways to raise capital. Options could include increasing the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases or implementing a road use tax in high impact areas.
For over a decade, the SCDOT has talked about widening I-526, and cost estimates have ballooned to over a billion dollars. Bottom line, expanding lanes is going to be expensive, disruptive, and obsolete. We need to recognize good infrastructure planning is about moving people and goods, not widening roads. We need to broaden our definition of infrastructure development.
First, we should focus on adding and improving alternative travel patterns rather than a wholesale widening project to reduce the project’s impact and create a plan that better meets our future growth needs. Second, we partner with the South Carolina State Ports Authority to develop innovative solutions for moving cargo into and out of the ports using waterways, rail, and dedicated traffic lanes. Third, we invest in rapid mass transit. We need to fully fund the Lowcountry Rapid Transit line connecting all towns in the Charleston area, and make improvements to CARTA, so using it is both efficient and enjoyable.
My approach has been to identify why the problem exists, find solutions, and implement them. Two hard truths exist when it comes to tackling the funding for infrastructure development. First, the State Senate’s existing leadership must relinquish its tight control of the infrastructure funding process. I am not afraid to challenge leadership in the General Assembly to do what is best for the Charleston area and our state. Second, we need to invest in our state’s roads and bridges. I am the right person to lead our district through this complicated process.
As a small business owner, I understand how important it is to use our limited resources wisely and invest in improving our quality of life. I don’t have business or development interests influencing my decision-making process. I will always tell you the truth, even when it is something hard to hear. I am asking for your vote on Nov. 3rd to serve and represent your interests in our General Assembly.
Road upgrades are a primary function of government
Throughout this campaign, I am often asked, “Why are you running for this office?” The truth is, I don’t believe the status quo is acceptable. I am passionate about improving our roads. Helping our teachers continue to be the very best. Getting government out of the way and allowing our small business owners to expand and unleash economic growth and finally, supporting the men and women who put on the uniform every day to keep us safe.
Almost every person I’ve met on the campaign trail says that quality of life is their top concern. I share their concern. My wife Elayne and I live here in this great community of Daniel Island. Like everyone else, we spend far too much time sitting in traffic delays and congestion — instead of being at home with our families enjoying all that our beautiful Lowcountry area has to offer.
I will work tirelessly to fix and repair our roads. Despite some bright spots, our roads and bridges are still crumbling. Maintaining and expanding existing roads and infrastructure is a primary responsibility of the government. Unfortunately, for our communities, the status quo remains that the government continues to drag its feet and delay with the improvements and expansion of I-526 and I-26. It is quite simple; if economic growth continues, there must be functional and wider roads and better public transportation options.
This can has been kicked down the road long enough. We need a little less talk and a lot more action.
I will be a leader and strong advocate for our district, making sure we have a “seat at the table” in the Statehouse. I will fight to protect our federal, state, and local tax dollars for OUR infrastructure needs. More than enough locally generated revenue is available to fix Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester’s infrastructure needs. Still, our funds are instead being allocated by Columbia for projects elsewhere in the state. It is time to revisit the current statewide funding allocations.
Our district needs a vigilant watchdog to ensure the government spends our tax dollars on our priorities and projects. I commit to being that leader
And as our community continues to shine as a leader in economic success, I will work very hard to make sure that the funding is in place to meet our infrastructure challenges, needs, and projects associated with current and future growth. I commit that I will also bring local, state, and regional leaders to the table to create a new transportation funding assessment and, even more, a new long-term transportation vision for the Lowcountry.
It is also essential to recognize that having a relationship and familiarity with South Carolina leadership in the House and Senate is vital. As a life-long Republican, I will work with my colleagues in the Republican majority and Governor McMaster to continuously protect our district and shine a light on the issues facing our great community.
I am running to serve our community because the status quo is not acceptable. In these uncertain times, strong leadership focused on actions, and results are required. To protect our Lowcountry community, our quality of life, the time for “less talk and more action” is now. I ask for your vote on Nov. 3rd, and together, we will eliminate the status quo.
I am available to communicate with you anytime — please do not hesitate to call, text, or email me with your questions, comments, and suggestions. Thank you for considering me as your candidate for District 99.