by Rick Brundrett – The S.C. House meets today to begin debating a nearly $24.5 billion proposed state budget for next fiscal year – plus an attached $497 million bond proposal that House budget writers quickly approved without giving the public any chance to comment on the total debt package.
The bonds are essentially loans that S.C. taxpayers will have to pay back with interest – interest that likely will collectively total tens of millions of dollars over the repayment period. But the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee didn’t reveal those costs when it publicly discussed for the first time and passed the bond package on Feb. 19.
As a comparison, taxpayers will have repaid more than $116 million in interest on top of $355 million in principal by June 30, 2025, when the last payment is scheduled to be made on bonds state officials approved – beginning with a rare, special legislative session in October 2009 and without prior public discussion – for aerospace giant Boeing, according to a payment schedule provided to The Nerve by the S.C. Treasurer’s Office.
Asked by The Nerve if anyone from Ways and Means has contacted the Treasurer’s Office, which conducts the sale of state bonds, about doing a cost analysis of the $497 million bond proposal, Scott Lindenberg, spokesman for Treasurer Curtis Loftis, reiterated Friday in a written response, “We have not received a request to provide a formal fiscal impact analysis on the bond bill.”
Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, did not respond last week to written and phone messages from The Nerve seeking comment on specifics of the bond proposal and why the public was not allowed to review it before his committee approved it.
The bond package, which is labeled as “Part III” of the proposed state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, would finance 44 projects ranging from $1 million for a pedestrian bridge at the University of South Carolina’s Aiken campus to $60 million to the S.C. Department of Commerce for unspecified “Regionalized Economic Development Infrastructure.”
Other big-ticket items in the bond package include $50 million to the S.C. Technical College System for “Pathways to Workplace Infrastructure Development” and $50 million for the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital. No funds for any of the proposed projects could be released until after next Jan. 1.
(The Nerve last month reported the bond proposal includes $35 million for a new aeronautical training center at Trident Technical College in North Charleston for workers at Boeing and its suppliers, and others. The Ways and Means Committee also approved spending another $5 million from one of the state’s “rainy-day” funds – the capital reserve fund – for the proposed center.) read on