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Politics: Goldfinch parts ways with governor on road plan

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Gov. Nikki Haley reneged on a compromise with state House members to pay for fixing the state’s crumbling infrastructure because of her political ambitions, state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch told members of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club this week.

“We’ve got a governor that obviously wants higher office,” Goldfinch said. “She’s trying to get a lot of publicity in this debate. She’s going in the wrong direction in my opinion.”

Haley campaigned for Goldfinch last year in his race for the District 108 seat against Vida Miller.

Goldfinch told Waccamaw Republicans Haley is the best governor in the country for economic development but said her plan to raise gasoline taxes for a larger cut in income taxes over 10 years will not be accepted by the legislature.

“She’s already told us it’s her bill or no bill,” Goldfinch said. “I believe after talking to all the parties we are not going to have a bill. I don’t think you are going to see any change in road conditions in four years.”

He said there is too much distance between the House proposal to raise around $400 million for roads and the Senate’s bill, crafted by Sen. Ray Cleary, calling for $1.5 billion. Any compromise, Goldfinch said, would need to be nearer the House’s number.

Goldfinch said Republicans would be loath to override Haley’s veto of a compromise road funding bill because she would campaign against them in the next election.

“The rats will jump ship like you’ve never seen when the governor puts her machine in place, calling it a tax increase and to vote these people out,” he said. “I would jump ship. I wouldn’t vote to override her veto on an $800 million tax increase. No way.”

Goldfinch said if there is no legislation on roads by July 1 the state’s senators will run the Department of Transportation in the absence of a secretary of transportation. “They pick and choose what roads get funded and how they get funded,” Goldfinch said. “They are the king.”

No challenge for Senate seat

Goldfinch disappointed some members of the Republican Club when he said he’s not planning to challenge state Sen. Ray Cleary in 2016.

“It’s time to get rid of Sen. Cleary,” said Judy Clarke, president of the Georgetown County Republican Women’s Federation, “and I’m not the only one who feels that way. We are extremely disappointed in the way he has represented us.”

Cleary, a Republican, has not voted with conservatives on some social issues.

Clarke and her husband John are members of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Garden City and said the bishop has sent representatives to speak against Cleary from the pulpit. She told Goldfinch that local Republicans supported him but he should make a decision about running for the Senate before Cleary’s foes start helping other candidates.

“I’ve prayed about that issue and thought about it,” Goldfinch said. “I understand some of the things that have concerned people about Sen. Cleary. I understand the frustrations. I get it. I would like to be a solution to that problem, but I’m not sure now is the right time for that. I probably will not be challenging Ray, but you never know what’s going to happen in the next term.”

Cleary said last year that he won’t decide until November if he will seek another term. However, he said he was raising funds in order to prepare for a primary challenge from someone on the party’s more conservative wing.

If he does run in 2016, Cleary said it would be for his last term.

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