The Buzz

SC House utility panel to grill Santee Cooper execs over nuclear debacle

Executives of the state-owned Santee Cooper utility are the next ones called to testify before lawmakers investigating South Carolina’s botched nuclear reactor projection.

Members of the S.C. House’s “utility ratepayer protection“ committee will hear from Santee Cooper executives and board members at a State House hearing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The same panel previously grilled leaders of SCE&G, Santee Cooper’s senior partner in the failed multi-billion-dollar plan to add two nuclear reactors to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. That plan was abandoned by the two companies in late July. Lawmakers were incredulous that SCE&G, a subsidiary of Cayce-based SCANA, would embark on the project without a proper construction schedule.

And, last week, the House panel gave angry customers a platform to rip into the utilities, which raised their rates to pay for the project.

Santee Cooper already has been blasted by legislators for not blowing the whistle year ago on the construction fiasco. In response, the company’s long-time chief executive said last month that he would step down.

Last Wednesday, Santee Cooper and SCE&G sold a $2.2 billion settlement with Toshiba, parent company of the bankrupt contractor, Westinghouse, that was in charge of the Fairfield County project.

The sale gave the utilities a quick cash payout to help defray the cost of the project. Santee Cooper will get $831 million. SCANA will get $1.2 billion.

Also at the State House this week

▪ A legislative committee will discuss the incorporation of the town of Indian Land in Lancaster County at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

▪ A committee studying a potential petroleum pipeline through South Carolina will meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

▪ A House law enforcement and criminal justice panel will discuss the Department of Natural Resources at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

▪ The House Oversight Committee will discuss McCormick County’s John de la Howe School at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

▪ A Senate committee will meet to discuss reauthorizing the state’s Conservation Bank at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

SC: Living on the federal dime?

The federal government never has been that popular in South Carolina.

But the Palmetto State is very willing to take federal dollars.

South Carolina is among the Top 10 states with the most favorable “balance of payments” with the federal government – meaning it gets more federal money than its citizens pay in federal taxes, according to a new study.

For every $1 that South Carolinians send to Washington, they get back $1.71 from the feds. That balance of payments left South Carolina $23 billion in the “black” in fiscal year 2015, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York.

That is the ninth highest “profit” for any state. The Top 5 states were Virginia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Alabama.

South Carolina also is in the Top 6 when it comes to federal spending as a percentage of the state’s gross-domestic product.

Even after federal taxes are taken into account, federal spending in South Carolina accounted for 11.4 percent of the state’s domestic product, ranking behind only Mississippi, New Mexico, West Virginia, Alabama and Kentucky.

Thirteen states had a negative balance with Washington, paying more in federal taxes than they received in federal spending.

New York is the worst off, at $47.8 billion in the “red,” followed by New Jersey, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Who’s running now?

Two incumbent S.C. congressmen now have formal opposition in the November 2018 general elections after a pair of announcements.

▪ Army veteran Sean Carrigan will take on U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington, in the 2nd District. The Democrat said he would run at the annual Aiken County Democratic Fish Fry on Sept. 21.

Carrigan said he will run on a platform of ensuring Americans are “health care secure, housing secure and food secure.” While Wilson has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Carrigan said, if elected, he will work to improve the health care law, “favoring a single-payer system in the long term.”

He also supports a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.

▪ In Charleston Monday, Democrat Joe Cunningham officially announced his candidacy, speaking alongside two cardboard cutouts of U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston.

Cunningham said one represented the Sanford of today and, the other, the Sanford first elected to the 1st District congressional seat in 1994.

“1994 Mark Sanford looked you in the eye and pledged not to accept a dime in special-interest PAC money,” Cunningham said, pointing to one of the cutouts. “But today’s Mark Sanford has pocketed more than $600,000 from PACs.”

Cunningham, a Charleston attorney, promised to support term limits, campaign finance reform and an end to political gerrymandering.

Sanford told the Post and Courier that Cunningham was hurling “unfounded political accusations.”

Sanford said he did stick to his pledge opposing political-action committee money during his initial three terms in Congress — from 1994 to 2000.

He only began accepting PAC money after his two terms as S.C. governor.

Who’s done running?

The S.C. House of Representatives has its newest member.

Democrat Rosalyn Henderson Myers of Spartanburg won a special election Tuesday in District 31.

A Spartanburg native and former City Council member, Myers takes the seat once held by state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, who stepped down in May, citing health reasons.

Myers’ win leaves two other openings in the S.C. House.

Voters in District 28 in Greenville County and District 99, in parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties, will vote Jan. 16 to fill vacancies.

Two other legislative seats are in limbo.

State Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, and state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, have been suspended, following their indictment on corruption charges. But District 69’s Quinn and District 20’s Courson retain the seats.