The South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads would like to thank Jim Hilley and The Sumter Item for featuring our organization. This recognition would not be possible without our advocates continued support and engagement on the issues of road funding and repair.
Roads Group Keeps on Truckin’
Road Alliance Keeping up Pressure with Social Media
by Jim Hilley, The Sumter Item
Out-of-state groups spent a lot of money during the South Carolina primary season to encourage opposition to an increase in the gasoline tax, but Bill Ross, president and CEO of South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, said he didn’t see much of an impact.
“As you look at the primaries, we didn’t see any of the legislators who support an increase in the gas tax being defeated in the primaries,” Ross said.
“Groups coming in like Americans for Prosperity and a couple of other groups like that came in and went after them big time on the gas tax,” he said. “They were trying to sway the public to contact their legislators and urge them not to increase the gas tax and those kinds of things.”
Anti-gas tax campaigns across the country didn’t get much mileage either, he said.
“Nationally, voting for a gas tax increase or user fee in states across the country didn’t affect the outcome of the election,” Ross said. “Over 90 percent of those who voted for it were re-elected.”
He said the alliance is a nonprofit group and does not support or oppose individual candidates.
Ross said the coalition encourages legislators to support fixing the state’s road problems and tries to make residents aware of when a vote is coming up and what position legislators are taking.
“We try to get people to call or email legislators,” he said. “We list phone numbers and email addresses and that type of thing.”
Ross said the General Assembly took a good step in the right direction in 2016 but didn’t solve the state’s road-funding problem in the long term.
Because of that, the alliance isn’t going away, he said.
“We are going to continue to do what we can do to move the needle a little further and get them to adopt something long term,” he said.
Ross said that a long-term funding solution is needed so that South Carolina Department of Transportation can do the type of planning needed to improve the state’s crumbling road system.
He said the alliance has been successful at generating public support through social media.
“We get a lot of feedback on social media; people send us pictures of potholes, and we get a lot of calls asking, ‘What can we do?'”
The alliance has more than 30,000 followers on Facebook, he said, and that generated about 20,000 emails sent to General Assembly members.
“We used to depend on direct lobbying, but in these days, it doesn’t have the impact of social media,” Ross said.
One of the group’s strengths is the broad base of support the alliance receives, he said.
“We have 37 local chambers from across the state who are members and 17 associations, including AARP,” he said. “We are able to get the message over to those groups and utilize them to get meetings and have the opportunity to talk directly to legislators.”
Ross said the general public is sick and tired of having rough roads and hitting potholes.
“I think everybody recognizes what condition the roads have gotten to,” he said.
He called attention to a legislative council study that indicated the tremendous needs DOT is facing.
“One thing they pointed out in that study is that if you don’t maintain the roads, you end up spending 10 times as much,” he said. “That’s the point we are getting to now, and it’s really scary because the longer we postpone this, the larger the dollar figure for getting the roads back in the condition they need to be.”
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