Lowcountry senator wants I-73 funds reallocated, backlash grows

Lowcountry senator wants I-73 funds reallocated, backlash grows

(WMBF) - The words of one Lowcountry senator are stirring up a lot of anger along the Grand Strand.

On Tuesday, local political leaders fired back at Beaufort Sen. Tom Davis following comments he made about taking money away from Interstate 73 construction during his filibuster of a roads bill.

At a Feb. 18 South Carolina State Senate hearing, Davis called into question money set aside for I-73, a proposed highway that would connect the Grand Strand to several Midwest states.

Most specifically, Davis said a law passed in December allows earmarked funds for a road project to be reallocated to other projects, if more than 10 years old.

Tuesday, Davis continued his filibuster.

He said that money should be available for current road problems, not future ones.

"Every single dollar that we have now ought to go into maintaining what we already have and bringing it up in good condition," Davis said during Tuesday's Senate hearing. "All the roads that have potholes, all the areas that are dangerous to drive on, all the bridges that are deficient."

Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Conway, questioned Davis on the Senate floor.

He said I-73 is considered a current project, with millions of dollars being committed and spent. Because of that, anything earmarked for the highway can't go to another project.

"By your own statement, you've acknowledged that it is not available, that we have got to discover, and DOT has got to figure out, what the particulars are of a dead project," Rankin said to Davis in a back and forth on the Senate floor.

S.C. Department of Transportation Chairman Mike Wooten said Davis' claims about I-73 hold no merit.

He added the law Davis is talking about only applies when less than 10 percent of funds are purposed.

Wooten said millions have been spent on I-73, thereby exceeding that 10 percent benchmark.

"It's just wrong, and I believe he should be called out on it," Wooten said.

He called the ongoing filibuster, 'typical Tom Davis,' saying he's held up bills like this in the past.

"For somebody from Beaufort, who has no involvement in this project whatsoever, to use it as political fodder for maybe a future political campaign, I don't know what he's going to do," Wooten said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, of South Carolina's 7th Congressional District, said he understands Davis' position, but it doesn't apply in this case with how the statute is written.

Rice said his main priority is to bring jobs to his district, and he believes I-73 is the No. 1 way to do that.

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