State senators could tap into state savings to pay for damage and costs associated with this month’s historic flooding, the Senate’s leader said Wednesday.
Borrowing or using state surplus money also could be on the table, said Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence.
How much the state will have to pay still is unknown.
Nearly a month after floods hit South Carolina, state agencies still are calculating the costs associated with the storm, agency leaders told senators Wednesday.
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The flood affected schools, agriculture, tourism, local governments and water and sewer service, said Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, agreed.
"It took decades to pay for Hugo," Peeler said of the hurricane that hit South Carolina in 1989. He added paying for the flood also could take years.
Flood relief will have to compete with other budget priorities in the legislative session that starts in January, including spending more on rural, low-income schools to address a state Supreme Court ruling and repairing the state’s crumbling roads.
State agencies told senators Wednesday that responding to the flooding cost them extra money.
The S.C. National Guard, for example, spent money to call up more than 4,100 personnel, supported by the N.C. National Guard, to assist with flood-response operations.
The Guard reported its troops saved 209 lives. Twenty-eight people were rescued by helicopter aquatic-rescue teams and 11 by boats. The remaining 170 were rescued by the Guard’s high-water vehicles.
Among the Guard’s added expenses were mileage costs and fuel for vehicles and aircraft, said Col. Brad Owens, director of joint staff for the Guard.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency should pick up to 75 percent of the Guard’s flood-related expenses, said S.C. Emergency Management director Kim Stenson.
Flood response facts
209 lives saved during the flood by S.C. National Guard troops
55,360 sandbags filled by S.C. inmates
282,236 miles put on military vehicles
5,669 total tetanus vaccinations administered as of Oct. 26
SOURCES: S.C. National Guard, Law Enforcement Division, departments of Health and Environmental Control, and Corrections