Councilman Raises Questions About Sales Tax Spending

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By Crandall Sims

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- "It's really going to transform the bus system from anything we've seen in a long time," says Councilman Jim Manning, (D) Richland County

For Jim Manning, the Penny Sales Tax is a new beginning for the county's bus system CMRTA.

Back in November voters passed the Penny Sales Tax, a move that is set to bring in over one billion dollars over the next 20 years for road repairs, greenways and the bus system.

CMRTA itself is set to gain $300 million.

Manning says the sales tax will be implemented in May.

But, County Councilman Bill Malinowski is crying foul over the company who manages CMRTA, Veolia Transportation.

Last month, Malinowski filed a petition asking for total accountability on exactly where the money from the Penny Sales Tax would go in terms of the CMRTA, a move he claims Veolia has refused to make.

"We're in the process of putting out the bids so I think it's really a little premature," says Manning.

In fact, Manning says Veolia doesn't have to disclose anymore information than they already have.

"They only have to be accountable to accopmlish those things that they say they will do," says Manning.

Tuesday afternoon, County Council took up the matter.

Veolia Transportation issued the following statement to ABC Columbia News: "Veolia Transportation supports increased funding for public transit and pledges our continuing partnership and transparency with CMRTA staff and the board.

Back in council chambers, Malinowski says either the company should be totally transparent about how the $300 million is spent or the county should find a new company to manage CMRTA.

Manning says that may happen, but not because Veolia did anything wrong.

"We're in the process to where we are going to put out a request for proposals and so at some point, not too long, because the contract is about to run out, it may not be Veolia that provides the service," says Manning.

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