Members of the South Carolina House said they will try again next year on a plan that would try to raise nearly a half-billion dollars through borrowing to pay for building repairs at colleges and state agencies.
With only one day remaining in this year’s regular session, the House voted Wednesday to delay any further debate on the $498 million bond plan until next January. More than half of the money raised through bonds would go towards colleges and universities, which say they have a massive backlog in repair and maintenance needs. The plan also included $30 million to buy new school buses, plus more than $200 million to various other state agency capital needs.
Despite Wednesday’s vote, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Brian White said it’s a debate the House needs to have. He noted the state used to borrow on a cycle to raise funds for general maintenance work, but has not done so since 2001.
“I know it hasn’t been a habit we’ve done,” he said before the vote. “We’ve managed really well and our debt is extremely low. But the other side of that is, while we’re keeping our debt low, our maintenance needs have escalated.”
White also said he also wants to speak with Gov. Henry McMaster on the idea. McMaster had wanted the borrowing package to fund roadwork instead of a proposed gas tax increase which legislators wanted. Now that the increase will become law, White said he wants to talk with the governor and his staff on potentially supporting the bond package. The plan passed the Ways and Means Committee by a 21-0 vote in March.
A similar plan derailed last year after Gov. Nikki Haley threatened a veto due to the large amounts of borrowing involved.
White hoped the fact South Carolina has almost paid off its last round of borrowing means the state would not have to increase the interest payments it is already spending each year. He also wants to take advantage of historically-low interest rates.