House subcommittee moves SC State proviso forward - - Columbia, South Carolina

House subcommittee moves SC State proviso forward

Thomas Elzey during a rally at SC State on Tuesday night. Thomas Elzey during a rally at SC State on Tuesday night.

A House subcommittee has moved forward a proviso that would shutter South Carolina State University for one fiscal year in order to get the school's finances in order. 

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Provisos voted in favor of the plan that would shut down the school for the 2015-2016 fiscal year in order to help shore up the school's finances and clean house.

Just like Tuesday, debate on the proviso became heated at sometimes with Rep. Kenny Bingham picking up where he left off during Tuesday's debate. 

"They've got debt to vendors that's continuing to increase every month. So that means, what does that mean? It means that they are still operating in a negative balance, it means that they are not receiving as much income as they are expending. It is just pure mathematics, I don't care how big your budget is or how small your budget, whatever you make you have to live within your means. Once you do that than you're fine. It's not a function of money, it's a function of commitment of living within your means. That's what Dr. [Thomas] Elzey was brought in to rectify," Bingham said.

Bingham also singled out university president Thomas Elzey and said the president hasn't been able to right the ship at the financially troubled school.

"When he took that position, he knew what he was walking into," Bingham said. "It was his job to right the ship. He has not righted the ship in any way shape or form."

With the plan now moving to the full House Ways and Means committee, does it have a chance to actually pass the full legislative body? According to one lawmaker, don't bet on it.

Rep. Chip Limehouse, who is a member of the proviso subcommittee says he doesn't believe it would pass the full House.

"I'm very doubtful this can pass the full committee or even pass on the House floor," Limehouse said. "The Black Caucus is going to weigh in and have their say so in this matter. I don't think he expects this plan to pass the House, the Senate. It's not a viable plan."

Limehouse called the plan an effective warning shot and believes it's wrong to shut the school down because it would drastically hurt enrollment.

Fellow committee member Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who was the lone vote against Tuesday's proviso, said there is still an opportunity to fix the school's issues.

"It would be a sad, sad day in this state for all South Carolina State University people if this opportunity to fix long-standing problems at the university is missed," Cobb-Hunter said.

Meanwhile, state Senate Democrats called the proviso "reckless and irresponsible" in a statement released late Wednesday.

"We cannot turn our back on the students and the alumni of the University," the statement said. "This institution is the only public historical black college and university in the state of South Carolina and it adds millions of dollars to the State of South Carolina and Orangeburg County's economy in particular."

House Speaker Jay Lucas also spoke out on the plan in a statement, saying current leadership at the school is "incapable of bringing about the necessary change this situation demands."

"I stand by the efforts of the Ways and Means Subcommittee as they continue to address this very important and sensitive issue," Lucas said. "We must rally around this historical institution and offer sound assistance that will help South Carolina State return to its full potential.”

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