South Carolina Senate Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman is calling for state lawmakers to return to Columbia and override a veto from Gov. Henry McMaster that struck extra money for school buses in the state's budget.
In an interview with WIS' Chad Mills, Leatherman says he wants the Senate to return as soon as possible to work and override McMaster's veto.
“Today, I plan on calling the legislature back – certainly on the Senate side – to override the governor’s veto of $17,500,000 to buy new buses. We’ve got to replace those dangerous buses. We cannot allow them to stay on the roads out there. The children stand a chance of being hurt or burned," Leatherman said.
The veto struck through $17.5 million toward school bus leases and purchases by the Department of Education through the state's lottery.
“The educational lottery was passed to provide for scholarships and should be used for that, period. That’s my position. The government has a tendency, once there’s a pot of money out there, everybody starts pulling money for something else, and that’s what that provision would have done, and that’s why I vetoed it,” McMaster said.
The state's aging school bus fleet is the focus of a WIS Investigation that found 108 state fleet-owned school buses have caught fire in the past 20 years.
In that story, state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said more funding for school is the solution.
"We need about $34 million a year dedicated to the replacement of buses,” she said.
Even though Spearman hopes lawmakers will override the governor's veto when they return in January, she does agree with the governor's reason for vetoing it. She believes recurring funds, not one-time money, should go to South Carolina’s aging school buses.
"You know, the horror of horrors would be if we had a bus load of children, the bus catches on fire, we can't get them out of there," Leatherman said. "I can't imagine anything that would be worse than that. We on the Senate side want to protect our children."
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