Sen. Lindsey Graham backs Jasper County economic development projects

JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - Jasper County leaders shared plans for three major economic development projects with South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham Monday, and Graham committed support all three.

Local leaders, like Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams, recognizes the long-term, positive impacts of an additional exit on I-95, a new port terminal and improved airport could have, and hope Graham's support will make them happen.

"It means a lot because it brings attention to our county and to our entire region of the needs we have for the infrastructure we're trying to put into place," Williams said."

Williams said Hardeeville's been working to get an Exit 3 added to I-95 for years, and Graham sees the opportunity for growth that comes with it.

"That could open up a lot of land for development,"Graham said. "I'll do everything I can to help the federal government move forward in approving Exit 3. Then, I'll go to the state infrastructure bank and put my two cents worth in there."

Wiliams said the new exit is projected to have a $1 billion economic impact on the surrounding communities, and will be an essential route for both hurricane evacuations and routine truck traffic.

The county's also looking to double the length of its airport runway, which Graham said increases the likelihood of businesses locating in Jasper county "exponentially."

However, the biggest focus for Graham and local lawmakers is building the Jasper Ocean Terminal on the South Carolina side of Savannah River.

"The port facility is the game changer," Graham said. "I have spent a lot of time on the Port of Charleston, but I want you to understand I never lost sight of the Jasper Port."

Jasper County Council Chairman Marty Sauls said Graham's support of such an influential project is invaluable.

"The Jasper Ocean Terminal is probably the largest economic development project on the east coast. We're looking at a multi-billion dollar port, over a million direct and indirect jobs. You're looking at vendors locating here from across the globe, so that opens up a wide door for economic development to create a great tax base form an industrial standpoint and great, career jobs for our people here in Jasper County, as well as the entire state."

Sauls said he hopes having Grahams support and influence behind the projects helps them become a reality faster.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure your voice is heard in Washington, help you in Columbia where I can, and if you need somebody to come down here to sell Jasper County to any perspective businesses, call on me because I think I can sell this place 'cause you got something to sell," Graham said.

Tax Reform

The House and the Senate are divided about tax reform, and Graham said without a consensus and a bill passed, it's the end of the Republican party as America knows it.

"I think we will. If we don't we're dead."

With some big difference between the House and Senate proposals, Graham said the House will likely side with the Senate. He thinks they'll have to find middle ground on things like state and local taxes to get it passed, especially without  support from democrats.

He often talks about corporate tax cuts, but said the Senate bill benefits middle-class Americans too.

"The joint tax analysis of the senate bill just came out and it said that the biggest beneficiary of the senate tax proposal is middle class folks making from 50 to 75,000. they're getting about a 10 percent tax cut people from 25-50, about 7. people on the higher end are getting 2 or 3 percent. so I think we have a very well-balanced tax cut, but for the economy to grow, at 3 and a half to 4 percent, which I think is imminently doable, we have to get our corporate tax rates in line with the world."

Especially with the three large economic development projects in the works, Graham said tax reforms will help Jasper County become a global competitor

Nuclear Power Plants

Abandoned nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina may not actually be, according to Graham.

He wants nuclear production tax credits passed in a final Republican tax reform bill, and said they're currently included in the House bill.

Two nuclear reactor projects, including the VC Summer plant, in South Carolina and one in Georgia, Vogtle, are unfinished after Toshiba's Westinghouse Electric Co., the company behind them, went bankrupt. But Graham said that doesn't mean the projects won't be built.

"It's not over for me," Graham said. "I don't want people in South Carolina paying for a hole in the ground. We've had nine rate increases to pay for these power plants. There are other companies out there that can partner to build these plants. I'm going to work with the governor and the president, try to convince him  that if you do not build these three power plants, that's the end of the nuclear renaissance in America, and that would be a loss for this country. Why can the French build a power plant? The Russians and the Chinese build power plants, and we can't? It tells you a lot about the erosion of the industrial base. It tells you a lot about how we regulate in America. I want safe, but I also want to get it done. So I am not abandoning these programs, these plants. I am going to do everything I can to make sure the one in Georgia stays on track, we get new investors for the two in South Carolina because if you take nuclear power out of the future of the United States in terms of new plants, it's really going to be hard to deal with the environmental challenges we have. We're becoming more energy independent. If you can make your own energy, you're a lot better off than if you have to buy energy from people who hate your guts."

Graham wouldn't say what company could buy the plants to finish them, but said there's international interest to take them over.

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.