Feature Image: SC Public Radio
A concerned constituent recently expressed his thoughts on the current Santee Cooper disaster in an op-ed to The Chronicle. The author expressed the need for Santee Cooper to be sold and pointed out all that could be done without the state involved in the utility business.
The resident wrote, “To me, the only real option that makes sense is to sell the utility to a company that truly understands the energy business.” The author then goes on to express the benefits of the sale outside of just the solution to the massive debt. In Santee Cooper’s current form as a state-owned entity, it cannot be taxed. If the company is sold to a privately owned company, the increase in tax revenue could be used on a slew of services to help South Carolina constituents such as education, infrastructure improvements, and drainage issues.
After a legislative session of sentiment that felt as if a Santee Cooper solution was in the near future, the South Carolina legislature once again concluded the session with the message of “explore all options for Santee Cooper”. It is now up to the Department of Administration to oversee the process of collecting and reviewing bids for the state-owned utility.
On top of the burden placed on the taxpayers for the over $7 billion in debt, Santee Cooper was recently informed that they may be responsible for up to $15 million in fees from outside consulting firms being used to advise lawmakers on purchase or management offers, legal issues, and utility manners.
State lawmakers set aside $5 million to pay these consultants, but the costs are expected to be far greater. The letter informing Santee Cooper, from State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, of their newly discovered responsibility claimed the entity is required to fund the resources which will allow the Department of Administration to complete their work. This was the first time any of the board members were told that Santee Cooper would be responsible to help with paying for the state’s bidding process.
Governor Henry McMaster has shown his outward support towards the sale of the state-owned energy utility. McMaster called for the formation of the special investigative committee which requested bids for the sale. Most recently, he spoke at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. At this meeting, McMaster touched on Santee Cooper saying the state is working towards a “good, strong way out.” He then went on to say, “Maybe, in the end, this will be a good thing for South Carolina; maybe, in the end, we will be stronger for it.”