Following Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto Monday of $20.5 million in funding to buy new school buses, South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the state’s aging fleet of buses is costing more to keep on the road.
“I’m really working to get these old buses off the road,” Spearman said following an unrelated press conference Tuesday. “They’re costing us twice as much as new buses to operate as well as there are some safety issues we’re having to inspect continually. So it would save money in the long run very quickly.”
The $20.5 million in total vetoes was part of $28.9 million directed for new school buses in the budget plan legislators approved last week. But Spearman said the remaining $8.4 million is not enough. “It would not take us where we need to be for next year,” she said.
McMaster said he is against spending the $20.5 million which depends on the South Carolina Education Lottery raising more than projected. The governor insisted in his veto message lottery money should be only for the scholarships the game was created to fund. Lawmaker insist the state has often used the lottery for bus purchases.
“I understand the governor’s reasoning that the buses should be funded in a more stable line of funding and I agree with that,” Spearman said. “But when we’re in a crisis mode like this I have to get the money where ever I can find it. And we’re going to be working to see if we can override the veto.”
Spearman said the state is still using some buses that are 22 to 28 years old. A state law requires buses to be retired and replaced every 15 years, but legislators have not regularly set aside funds to cover the purchase needs. South Carolina is the only state in the country which owns and maintains its own school bus fleet.