South Carolina Bill for New Bonding Passes, But Now Must Face Governor's Line-Item Veto

Despite budgetary concerns, the South Carolina legislature this week finally passed a bond authorization bill permitting the sale of an additional $333.3 million of general obligation debt for capital expenditures.

Gov. Carroll Campbell has vowed to veto portions of the authorization to bring it down to the $250 million level suggested by the state's Budget and Control Board, which he heads.

His spokesman, Tucker Eskew, said yesterday that Gov. Campbell will probably use the line-item veto to eliminate $50 million of bonds earmarked for an airline hub facility and will also scrutinize some projects added late in the legislative process.

"Gov. Campbell prefers bonding at the lower level, and, in addition to the airport project, he will give close scrutiny to about $30 million in other items," Mr. Eskew said. But he declined to say when Gov. Campbell might act to trim the authorization and what specific items might be cut.

Mr. Eskew noted that "a crease" in the South Carolina law permits the governor to wait until the commencement of the state's next regular session in January 1992 before vetoing portions of the bond bill. "He could act next week or next month, I just can't say," Mr. Eskew said.

The bond legislation, which was approved in a special session held Monday, had been considered but deferred during the regular session held earlier this year as lawmakers fretted over the state's fiscal difficulties and a controversial ethics bill. Since the end of regular session, the state has had to slash its $3.5 billion general fund's budget about 6.3%.

"The General Assembly felt that the projects to be financed by the bonds were important enough that this bill must pass," a legislative staffer said yesterday. He said the final version of the bill, approved by lopsided votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate, specified 78 items.

Of that total, prison items total about $115 million, and higher education $130 million, he said. In addition, the bonds will pay for national guard armories, renovation of the state house and governor's mansion, and an animal research center.

No new debt service has been authorized since lawmakers last approved new bonding in 1988. The state sells about $85 million of bonds a year, according to state officials.

Once the General Assembly approves a state debt level, the state agency that has requested the borrowing must receive approval from South Carolina's Joint Bond Review Committee and State Budget Control Board before bonds are actually sold.

The state's $750 million of outstanding general obligation debt is rated AAA by Standard & Poor's Corp. and Aaa by Moody's Investors Service.

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