- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The South Carolina Senate began its 2016 debate on how to get more money to the state’s roads Wednesday with a filibuster from the same senator who kept them from taking up the bill last year.

Sen. Tom Davis took the floor and told his colleagues he was going to speak until they voted to sit him down. Senators only need a majority vote but are loath to stop a senator from speaking because they might be forced to stop talking later.

They also may not be ready to vote on a bill that could raise taxes by more than $700 million for road and bridge work and cut income taxes by about $400 million even with mounting pressure from residents and business leaders tired of potholes on interstates as well as two-lane highways connecting county seats.

Davis certainly wasn’t ready for a vote. On Wednesday, the Beaufort Republican continued his argument that changes are needed in the structure of the Department of Transportation and other agencies that get to spend road money before any vote on the extra revenue.

“At some point in time, we have to do something other than throw money at it,” Davis said. “It makes no sense to keep pouring water in a bucket with a hole. You have to fix the hole.”

Senators from both parties asked him to stop. Sen. Shane Massey said Davis has changed minds about the need for DOT reform and delaying any longer is unnecessary.

“I don’t know how we address potential solutions unless you give up the podium,” said Massey, R-Edgefield.

But Davis didn’t give up the floor, saying there was no guarantee restructuring would be taken up before new taxes or tax cuts.

Sen. Joel Lourie said, politically, Davis’ filibuster was helping him and other Democrats. “I think you should take as long as you want,” the Columbia Democrat said.

Senators spoke in small groups, looked at their computers or read magazines as Davis spoke. And it appeared the filibuster could go on for days.

“There are a few of us willing to take the podium if you need a break for any reason,” said Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

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