S.C. Senate Republicans are together on $400M roads plan

Something unusual happened in the S.C. Senate last week — Republicans agreed with each other.

The state’s crumbling roads brought together factions within the Senate’s dominant party on the biggest spending issue debated inside the General Assembly in years.

Senate GOP leaders said they hope the agreement within party ranks on a $400 million a year roads plan could weaken the Democrats’ ability to win influence by aligning with wayward Republicans.

Democrats were angry.

“Fraud alert! Last night in the cover of darkness the Republican majority in the S.C. State Senate, in a conspiracy with the governor, killed the roads bill,” state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, emailed supporters Thursday.

Despite holding a majority in the Senate, Republicans have been roiled in recent years by a number of new members who believe in fiscal restraint and limited government. They call themselves the William Wallace caucus, named after the 13th-century Scottish warrior portrayed by Mel Gibson in the 1995 movie “Braveheart.”

In a meeting Wednesday, a majority of Senate Republicans latched onto a proposal from state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, that would spend $400 million a year from the state’s newly bolstered general fund. The proposal contains no gas-tax increase and also would give more authority over the state transportation department to the governor.