Could Santee Cooper Debt Climb $300,000,000 More?

From Scott Carlberg

A million dollars a day is being added to Santee Cooper’s debt for the unfinished nuclear facility and its utility operations. ECC wrote about that just a few weeks ago. Here’s a twist on that: Some news reports say the South Carolina Legislature may study the possible sale of Santee Cooper until the end of the year.

On Wednesday, February 6, the legislative committee looking into the possible sale of Santee Cooper asked some good questions. It also said the right amount of time is needed to review the proposals to purchase or manage Santee Cooper. Thorough and fast would be good.

Recall that the VC Summer project was abandoned July 31, 2017. That is 557 days ago as of February 8, 2019.  A while ago; second anniversary this summer. At the two year anniversary will the General Assembly still be debating action and letting the debt increase? Calculating added debt of $1 million a day, that is more than $557 million in added debt already.

Let’s say that the “end of the year” news report does happen. In round numbers that is about 300 days from now, or $300 million ($300,000,000) from now in added debt.

In January we noted what a million a day can do for the state. Let’s figure out what $300 million might be able to do. Just a few examples. (For illustration, not to infer that any of the debt financing can be transferred for these purposes.) 

  • Teacher bonuses.This one from a news report. “Leaders of the Fairfield County School District agreed Tuesday to give all full-time employees a bonus in December, if they stick around or come work for the district in August.” A million dollars covers 200 bonuses. But 300 days of added debt can cover a bonus for 60,000 teachers. Debt or teachers – which is more useful for the education program the General Assembly wants?
  • Water quality.A million dollars more than covers the total annual request in the 2019 budget for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for statewide water monitoring and evaluation. (Source. See page 25) But $300,000,000 covers more than 400 years of the water quality program at 2019 figures.
  • Emergency preparedness. The 2019-20 Executive budget calls for $40,312,517 for emergency preparedness. For one year. But $300,000,000 could cover that amount to serve the public for more than seven years. (Source)
  • Potholes:The second week of January the State of South Carolina announced a “Pothole Blitz” to especially address what the hurricanes have done in the last year. SC DOT Tweeted that more than 5,000 potholes were reported by the public in a week, and more than 80% got fixed. Super! Let’s just say $300 each for the sake of getting a feel for this. At a million dollars, at $300 per pothole, that is more than 3,300 potholes fixed in a day or 990,000 potholes.

Teacher support, water quality, fix potholes, emergency preparedness. Just a few rough ideas that $300 million could do.

Or, debt and its financing for the nuclear plant termination and Santee Cooper operations needs.

What should a member of the General Assembly hear from constituents about the use of money?