COLUMBIA, S.C. — The state governor vetoed on Monday over $20 million in state budget funds that were intended to replace aging school buses.
The $20.5 million is part of a total of over $56 million that Gov. Henry McMaster and his staff vetoed from the $7.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2017-18 passed by the South Carolina Legislature, according to WLTX. Much of that spending would only have been possible if the state's lottery and unclaimed prize funds collect more money than expected over the next year, according to The Post and Courier. Since lawmakers had specifically included $28.9 million for school buses in the budget, $8.4 million remains in the general revenue fund even if McMaster's vetoes are upheld, the newspaper reports.
The governor’s office told The Post and Courier that McMaster is concerned about the state's aging school buses, but that taking surpluses from lottery proceeds is not the way to pay for them.
In a video posted on his Facebook page as well as in a letter to the state Legislature, McMaster said he vetoed a “wish list” of projects that would be funded by the lottery, including school bus leasing and purchasing, in an effort to be transparent with state citizens. Voters were promised 17 years ago that lottery money would be used for scholarships, he explained, and “If additional lottery proceeds become available in the next year, they should be carried forward for use as scholarships for South Carolinians.”
As SBF previously reported, State Superintendent Molly Spearman asked legislators in January to fund school bus replacement and driver and technician pay increases. South Carolina, which is the only state in the U.S. that owns the school buses that transport its students throughout the state, has one of the oldest school bus fleets in the nation. Half of the state’s 5,582 buses are more than 15 years old, according to the South Carolina Department of Education.
Spearman said in a statement that the veto puts student safety at risk, and that the state’s aging buses are not only “twice as expensive to operate and maintain, but they are also experiencing structural and mechanical issues,” according to WLTX.
“I am deeply disappointed in the decision to veto this essential funding and remain committed to working with the General Assembly to override it and ensure South Carolina’s students have a safe means of transportation to and from school,” Spearman also said in the statement.
Lawmakers are able to override the governor’s vetoes by a two-thirds vote each in the House and Senate, according to The Post and Courier.