Funding failing school buses: SC Senate pumps the brakes on overriding governor's vetoes

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A plan to replace old school buses in South Carolina has hit a roadblock, and a dispute among legislators is being blamed for the holdup.

The Senate was expected to vote to get millions of dollars ready for school buses on Wednesday after the House did Tuesday night. But instead, the Senate is angry at the House and wants them to go back and redo some things first.

Some parents are ready to see newer buses on the streets, taking their precious cargo to school.

The Department of Education says lawmakers haven't spent enough money to replace them each year. That means old, failing buses break down, even catch fire.

"If we're not giving them safe, adequate transportation to and from school then we're somewhat failing them," Richland County parent Charra English said.

Although the governor vetoed $20.5 million in lottery money to buy new buses, lawmakers could override it. The House did, now, it's up to the Senate.

"I don't agree with his vetoing of those funds," English said. "In my opinion, buses are the foundation or they're part of the foundation of an education."

If the veto is overridden and $20.5 million is freed-up in lottery funds for buses, 210 would be leased. After this, there will still be about 350 older buses on the road though, so the superintendent would have needed more than double the lottery funding to rid the roads of all problem-buses.

"We can't have this one year we get zero and then the next year we get 30 million. That's where we've gotten in trouble," SC Department of Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said.

Senator Vincent Sheheen [D-Kershaw] agrees there should be money each year for buses.

"We're on a 20-plus replacement schedule. That's unacceptable," Sheheen said. "Those buses not only catch fire but they break down and cost a lot to operate. So, what I'd like to see is that we put a decent amount of funds in to replace buses every year."

The superintendent wants $10 million just for school buses from the state's checkbook every year. As for the lottery funds, the Senate could vote on that on Tuesday.

The governor reacted to the House's override of his veto, this morning. He says the money is meant to only go to scholarships, and that if spent on buses, it opens up a Pandora's box.

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