The state Senate has killed a proposed $236 million borrowing package on a technicality.
Lt. Governor Henry McMaster, who presides over the Senate, sustained an objection by State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, that the bonds package was inappropriately attached to a bill detailing how money from a state reserve fund should be spent. Martin had argued the bonds proposal was not “germane” to the budget.
The proposal would have sought to borrow $221 million for maintenance work at South Carolina’s public colleges and universities, with an additional $15 million set aside for National Guard armory repairs.
A group of senators who supported the package tried an unsuccessful attempt to override McMaster’s ruling, arguing that he was enforcing the Senate’s rules too strictly. However, the effort failed in a 14-31 vote, with three Democrats joining the otherwise all-GOP vote to agree with the Republican lieutenant governor. No Republicans voted to override McMaster.
“If you notice why this body is successful, it is generally because we allow freewheeling debate on a variety of topics with large leeway in amending bills and it forces us to the middle,” State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, unsuccessfully argued before the vote.
The debate was likely academic, as even supporters like State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, acknowledged they lacked the two-thirds vote that would be necessary to pass the controversial proposal. Gov. Nikki Haley has strongly opposed borrowing money to pay for maintenance and warned she would veto the bill if it passed.
National Guard supporters had tried a late push last week to generate public support for the bonds package. The National Guard Association’s South Carolina chapter launched a “Stand With Our Guard” web campaign raising attention to what it considers deteriorating conditions at many of the state’s armories.
“Some of the armories throughout the state have really gotten behind on the maintenance side,” the chapter’s executive director Larry Crowson told South Carolina Radio Network. “And we’re trying to bring it to the forefront that we need some money to get the facilities back up to speed so we can maintain our readiness through training.”