Privatize Santee Cooper Before Raising Taxes

SOLVE SC INFRASTRUCTURE “SHORTFALL” BY PRIORITIZING GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONS … NOT FORCING PEOPLE TO PAY MORE As expected, the push to raise taxes in South Carolina to address the damage sustained by this month’s “Floodmaggedon” disaster is gearing up … This week, the most powerful, most liberal politician in the state –…


As expected, the push to raise taxes in South Carolina to address the damage sustained by this month’s “Floodmaggedon” disaster is gearing up …

This week, the most powerful, most liberal politician in the state – S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman – told The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier that there’s no way to even conceive of how big the price tag will be.

“Nobody at this point can give me even a guesstimate of what kind of monies we’re looking at,” Leatherman told the paper, which headlined its coverage of soaring costs “wreaking havoc” on the state’s $26 billion budget.

Of course.  But while the adding machines whir, here’s some free advice: Grab your socks and hose and pull.

We’ve heard$1.5 billion, but again – no way to know yet whether that’s “South Carolina math” or a number of what the repairs might actually cost.

And again, we’d reiterate the unavoidable point here: That the damage from this storm was far worse than it should have been because state leaders have utterly failed to make road and bridge maintenance and repair a priority – even as the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) budget soared from $1.1 to $1.8 billion in the last four years alone.

Anyway … in a recent column we addressed how the state had plenty of money to deal with an emergency $1.5 billion tab (in addition to that astronomical 80 percent increase in recurring dollars).

From our post …

… the state could cover the entire shortfall – and have $900 million to play with – if its leaders agreed once and for all to abandon the fiscally reckless Interstate 73 project.

Beyond that, there’s more than $447 million currently sitting in the state’s two reserve accounts, and – as we noted earlier – the state has millions more in future projected surplus funds available.  Also, the state currently has an estimated $1 billion in bonding capacity – and would have a lot more available if Gov. Nikki Haley hadn’t been doling out corporate welfare like Halloween candy.

… h, and all this back-of-the-envelope math is before we start discussing what percentage of road and bridge repairs the federal government is going to assume, and before we start contemplating what non-essential government bureaucracies, programs and expenditures can be eliminated as part of an effort to better prioritize state spending.

Well guess what: We forgot something.  A big thing.

Loyal readers may recall a letter to the editor that ran on this website back in May of this year.  In the letter, it was proposed that the state sell Santee Cooper – its government-run energy company.

According to the letter’s author, Santee Cooper has $11.2 billion worth of assets and income of $1.5 billion a year – i.e. exactly the preliminary infrastructure damage estimate from “Floodmaggedon.”

Beyond selling Santee Cooper outright – as this website has consistently advocated the state should do – another option would be selling a minority interest in the energy concern.

Why aren’t lawmakers doing that?

Easy: They want to continue using the state’s ownership of Santee Cooper in their command economic development scams – you know, the ones in which they provide free power to select corporations as part of the state’s broader efforts to bribe business to relocate to the Palmetto State.

Oh, and let’s not forget the other part of those efforts – totally unnecessary infrastructure.

Government has core functions to perform.  One of them is undeniably the construction and maintenance of a network of roads and bridges.

But we cannot go to dirt poor citizens (who already pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income on fuel) and ask them to pony up still more money when the state’s coffers are literally overflowing with cash … much of which is being wasted on non-core functions.

And when there are non-core assets like Santee Cooper that should have been liquidated years ago …


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Will Folks


The Buzzman October 14, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Will, how does privatizing government functions not, in essence, set up yet another way that government colludes with business to screw over the people? Does the government not, basically, set up that new private enterprise with one hell of a sweetheart deal going into it?

What say-so does the consumer/voter have in that decision, if it happens? What if the winning bid to take over Santee-Cooper comes from, say, GE, and there are individual Santee-Cooper customers who would rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than to have anything to do with GE? Does not this get decided for them, from the git-go, by government in collusion with big bidness?

If you can’t say me nay on any of that, well, that is crony capitalism, any way you slice it. I’ve yet to see a single libertarian ideologue address these questions in any substantive way.

No, let me correct that. I’ve yet to see any one of them address it at all.

Will Folks, esteemed and infamous muck-raking alt.journalist scribe that you are, would you like to be the first to do so?

Conservative values October 14, 2015 at 3:25 pm

One thing?


We got our “conservative values!”

The Buzzman October 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Yeah, but the states are gubmint too, and often even more repressive and oppressive. Case in point: North Carolina since the “free market” types took over. Might as well be in fucking Nazi Germany.

Wheeling and Dealing October 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Some people prefer the public sector fucking them, others the private sector fucking them. In the end the average person relying on that entity gets fucked.

TroubleBaby October 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm

“No, let me correct that. I’ve yet to see any one of them address it at all.”

I’ll be brief.

You are correct, it is fascism when the government funds infrastructure then sells it off to private companies.

In an “ideal” libertarian world, development of infrastructre would be done solely by private corporations and they would be competing with each other to develop the best infrastructure & the best pricing to their customers.

But because the accepted model for some time has been gov’t funded development of electricity, water, etc.; it’s now a cluster fuck.

The best you can do is open things up for the development of independent power providers after a sell off and over time(and it will take a while) competition would take hold.

But, make no mistake, who ever buys Santee Cooper would have a huge head start, & then you’d have to also have the pols bust a power providing monopoly, which would lessen the value of Santee Cooper, which they are unlikely to do.

Hopefully I’ve answered your question.

SCE&G October 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Sweet. We’ll buy it all for pennies on the dollar and then jack up prices sky high.

R U Running Away from yourself October 14, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Hills like White Donkeys!!!…LMAO….

Actually…Don’t blame you….Hahahahaha…

The Donald October 14, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Jesus, I can’t believe I ave to court idiots like you to get my poll numbers up.

nitrat October 14, 2015 at 4:20 pm

The state should ‘nationalize’ all utility companies.

Bible Thumper October 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm

That the damage from this storm was far worse than it should have been because state leaders have utterly failed to make road and bridge maintenance and repair a priority.

We really don’t know if that statement is true. We might have made the repairs in the last few years and they still would have been damaged by the flood anyway. Not many roads would survive an upstream dam break. It would be interesting to compare damage to newer roads to older ones. Also destruction of deficient structures by the storm may have made their replacement cheaper.

easterndumbfuckistan October 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Near me there are two bridges on separate roads that cross the same creek. The newer bridge that was finished in August held up well, the older bridge that was built in the 60s had both approaches wash out. It’s not a big enough sample to really determine if this would have applied state wide, but the crossings were very similar and only a few blocks apart.

Bible Thumper October 14, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Besides expense the issue of safety has to be taken into account,

Rocky Verdad October 14, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Hug the anaconda!!!! Get some Federal dollars!!!!

soxinsc October 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Hmm…state sells Santee Cooper and receives a one-time payment that will cover the costs of this disaster and every single pork project the current Legislature wants. Santee Cooper customers see their rates increase because now they have to pay for the profits the private company expects to achieve from the purchase.

Pretty easy to pick the loser in this scenario.

Manray9 October 15, 2015 at 11:07 am

That’s the Republican answer. Sell public assets for private profit — costs socialized, profits privatized. Who end up paying in the end?

easterndumbfuckistan October 14, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Take it private sell 49% to private investors and have the State of SC continue to own the controlling stake in it. 49% would cover road and disaster costs.

Betty Seward October 15, 2015 at 4:42 am

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E Norma Scok October 15, 2015 at 1:28 am

Every time this state needs money you want to sell Santee Cooper.

Pro tip: You only get to sell it once. Choose….wisely.

Yelsewh October 15, 2015 at 8:43 am

Brilliant. Santee Cooper can privatize its profits while getting the public to pay its expenses just like SCANA. Will, you’re a gd idiot.

Jeff October 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm

The problem is Santee Cooper is a socialist monopoly and privatizing leaves a private monopoly. There is no good answer unless the state allows other utility companies to offer competition. Breaking up Santee cooper would help and allow electricity to be sold like phone service. When the state seized control of electricity production they created a monster that is unlikely to be destroyed. Look at SCANA and Duke, they are private monopolies which the state completely controls. Fascism at its best.
Without a true free market the choices are a socialist monopoly or a facsist monopoly.

CharlieChan October 16, 2015 at 9:21 am

“soared from $1.1 to $1.8 billion in the last four years alone.”

LOL. .7 increase in a State transportation department over 4 years is hardly “soaring”. Jeez. The problem with the dams was they were privately owned and so no one gave a crap about the safety… Yeah, lets continue that thought process over to Santee Cooper! Brilliant. Deepwater Horizon.

perspective October 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm

soared $700 Million in 4 years. $175 million a year for 4 years. $479,452.05 a day
1.1 Billion dollars is just over 3million a day
1.8 Billion dollars is 4.9 million dollars a day
that better?

ELCID October 22, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Don’t forget that once it’s sold and becomes a public company, they have to pay taxes on the assets. SCE&G pays $30 million in just one county: Lexington. That’s why they have great Lexington Cty schools: SCE&G money. Santee Cooper only pays around $20 million in their entire service area. It’s peanuts.

Therefore, selling Santee Cooper also creates a new and constant source of income for each county it serves. It’s not an all or nothing sell, it’s on going income each year.

Plus: the power rates won’t change much as Santee Cooper’s rates are mostly the same as SCE&G and Duke Power.


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