Featured Image Source: Andrew Whitaker, Post & Courier
South Carolina lawmakers returned to the State House last week, kicking off the 2020 legislative session. All eyes are on two hot topics this year: education and Santee Cooper.
Last year, both were said to be a top priority of lawmakers but have found their way rolling into the new year with no clear future.
During the 2019 legislative session, the House passed a massive bill including a complete overhaul of our state’s education system, but the bill spent the remainder of the session being torn apart and dissected by state senators.
Meanwhile, Santee Cooper’s future has been up in the air for far too long while lawmakers go back and forth on what to do with the debt-riddled state-owned utility.
Lawmakers have once again named both issues a top priority this year, and it won’t take long to see if this holds true.
Sometime in the upcoming session, legislators will receive three bids for state-owned Santee Cooper – one a reform plan from Santee Cooper itself, one from a company that would manage the utility, and one from a privately-owned utility that would purchase Santee Cooper.
While supporters from all sides have come forward, lawmakers have a difficult decision to make. They must make sure they choose an option that will protect the millions of people who get their power and water from Santee Cooper and all South Carolina taxpayers.
Since the public was made aware of Santee Cooper’s billions of dollars of debt, many have expressed their concerns over rising electric rates, talk of a taxpayer bailout, and the responsibility of the debt falling on the shoulders of customers.
Palmetto Promise Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting a “free and flourishing South Carolina” and a strong supporter of selling Santee Cooper, stated the only way for South Carolina residents to avoid costs related to Santee Cooper’s debt is a sale.
Experts have found that a sale would allow a write-down of Santee Cooper’s $4 billion in nuclear debt. According to the report, “Over time, that $4 billion could double as interest is charged to customers.”
While lawmakers try to figure out the best way to deal with state-owned Santee Cooper’s debt, they’ll also have to keep in mind the tens of thousands of teachers who are looking for raises, resources and help, and the money it will take for education reform.
All eyes are on our lawmakers now as two major decisions need to be made, quickly.