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FIRST ON BUZZ: SC Senate Democrats propose $500 million for flood-damaged roads

tglantz@thestate.com

Democratic leaders of the S.C. Senate will propose borrowing up to $500 million to fix roads and bridges damaged in last month's historic flooding.

Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler of Lexington and Assistant Minority Leader John Matthews of Orangeburg plan to introduce a bill before the upcoming legislative session which starts in January, Setzler told The State Sunday night.

“This was a catastrophic flooding and we've got to get to work now, and I hope, frankly, this will be a bipartisan effort,” Setzler said. “I just don't think we can, as a state, continue business-as-usual with the poor infrastructure.”

The proposed legislation would provide money for state-owned roads and bridges. The bill also would make $125 million available for rebuilding roads not owned by the state. Local governments could apply for the money through the S.C. Department of Transportation, which would be distributed based on need.

The money would not cover privately maintained dams, like those that failed and caused flooding in neighborhoods around lakes in northeast Richland County.

The proposal comes before lawmakers and state officials have an estimate of costs of repairing the damage caused by last month’s flooding. Both House and Senate leaders have formed committees to examine those costs.

Setzler said his bill would authorize any amount up to $500 million and could be adjusted later to match the state’s needs. He added that the money also could be used to meet a 25 percent match for federal aid.

The state would pay for the money over a period of time, he said, but lawmakers and state finance officials would have to determine for how long and at what yearly cost to the state.

Lawmakers could take up the proposal immediately when they return to work in January, he said.

Senate Republican leaders said recently that borrowing or using state surplus money could help pay for for flood repairs.

A Senate panel meets at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss ongoing flood relief efforts in the state.

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