Budget leaders in the South Carolina General Assembly have pledged to do what they can to help 22 counties affected by last year’s severe ice storm that downed thousands of trees and required months of cleanup. But it won’t come in the House proposal expected to pass this week.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday turned down a request to set aside $10 million for counties affected by the February 2014 storm nicknamed “Winter Storm Pax.” The storm caused power outages for more than 350,000 customers at its peak and the fallen trees and debris left many rural areas unreachable for more than a week.
Legislators from those 22 counties that were covered by a disaster declaration (predominantly in the Midlands) sought the funds to help repay the cleanup and repair costs. “I think it’s time that our state give back to our counties and try to make our counties whole again,” State Rep. Bill Hixon, R-N. Augusta, said on the House floor. “It means a lot. They dipped into their savings account and did everything they could to try to get our roads back to where they were.”
Hixon said the counties spent $73 million in total cleanup costs from the storm, on top of the nearly $164 million in work handled by the state Department of Transportation. While the federal government reimburses most cleanup costs, counties are still left with $18 million out of their own books. While Gov. Nikki Haley requested $16 million to cover county cleanup costs last spring, the money did not make it to the final budget.