Sunday, August 28, 2011

From the House

Bluffton Today

We got a fair number of calls and emails regarding last week’s column. I greatly appreciate the fact that the general tone of this back and forth was business-like and cordial, with a complete suspension of the few examples we have seen of rudeness and inappropriate commentary. I think the relentless heat this time of year was responsible for what we were hearing. As we approach the cooler fall weather, I predict we return to normal Bluffton courtesy and cordiality.

With the near constant talk of redistricting, there is something of a misunderstanding as to when the district lines will alter. While District 118 is going to include part of Jasper County and Hardeeville, that change is some time down the road. In the meantime, please refer your questions on Jasper issues to the Jasper County Delegation office where Rep. Curtis Brantley and Sen. Clementa Pinckney are available to deal with your problems and questions. While I have a keen interest in Jasper and Hardeeville issues, at this time that interest is of a concerned neighbor.

One of my recent “off season” concerns is all the publicity that surrounds the perception that SCDOT is not paying its bills. There is confusion as to whether our road and bridge builders are handling their resources properly. Part of this has to do with the scheduling of work and the different scheduling of receipt of revenues by SCDOT. This is a complex matter that lends itself to some misunderstanding by those that want to oversimplify the process. Anticipating this problem, I asked the financial side of SCDOT to forward me a weekly update of their fiscal situation, which is my right as a member of Ways and Means. Here is where we stand:

SCDOT cash balance on 21 August was $61 million. $49 million has subsequently been sent to the South Carolina Comptroller General’s office for processing as payments to the contractor’s you may have been reading about. For the month of August, SCDOT has made $125 million in contractor payments, vendor payments, and payroll. It is my understanding that, as of today, all unpaid vendor invoices are within the thirty-day working period and are scheduled for processing. On the revenue side, SCDOT is anticipating receipt of the state gas revenues from the Department of Revenue on September 6th or 7th, estimated at around $35 million. The SCDOT is expected to receive normal reimbursements from the Federal Highway Administration the first two weeks of September that will bring total September reimbursements, by my estimate, to around $70 million.

The cash balance for September, with the infusion of state and federal dollars will provide adequate resources to meet payroll, debt service, contractor and vendor payments to ensure the agency will have no outstanding bills over thirty working days, which is what we mandate in the state. More importantly, we do have adequate and accountable resources for the highway and bridge maintenance programs to go forward in a prudent and predictable fashion.

We will continue ahead with some projects, including $89 million in federally funded projects eligible for reimbursement. I believe we may hold off on about $24 million in state funded projects, which were not included in my above estimates. This, in my view, is simply a matter of controlling cash flow in recognition of today’s fiscal realities.