Add South Carolina National Guard armories to the list of neglected and underfunded state assets — a list that includes colleges as well as much-discussed roads and bridges.
The Legislature has been spending lots of time and energy trying to devise a plan to pay for the road maintenance that has been neglected for years. But discussion about repairing armories and vital college building projects has all but faded away.
The situation is all the more ironic because, while fixing the extensive damage to roads and bridges is financially daunting, there is an easy solution to meeting the needs of colleges, technical education and armories — a bond bill.
The hang-up is a threatened veto by Gov. Nikki Haley. She likens bonds to running up credit card debt. But that’s not a realistic comparison. Bonds are sound financial tools to help governments tend to large building projects that they would otherwise be unable to accomplish.
And at this time, interest rates remain low, and thus attractive, and other S.C. bonds are expiring. That means the $236 million bond bill that is languishing in the Legislature would not increase taxes.
South Carolinians — including lawmakers and the governor — should be embarrassed to ask members of the National Guard to train in armories that have leaky roofs, inadequate heating and air conditioning, crumbling surfaces and poor lighting. Furthermore, those armories are where the Guard stores equipment that ought to be better protected.
The slighting of our state’s citizen soldiers is particularly galling considering the heavy burdens that they have carried in extended American missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bond bill would provide money, which would be matched by federal funds, for the armories’ long overdue repairs.
And on a larger scale, it would help establish an aeronautical training center at Trident Technical College. Boeing has ramped up the need for workers trained in that field. And ancillary industries that might come to the area because of Boeing would also need employees.
The Medical University of South Carolina would receive financial assistance toward building a new women’s and children’s hospital that would serve people from across the state and bolster its increasing prominence nationally.
College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell, who fully understands bond bills, having served in the state Senate for more than 30 years, says they are a wise way to address pressing needs.
And any homeowner knows that deferring maintenance only results in greater needs that cost more to fix.
Similarly, failing to keep up with building needs diminishes colleges’ ability to recruit students and provide first-rate instruction.
Again, the cost of building is only going to rise. Indeed, Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen recently said the central bank is likely to increase interest rates this year.
The Fed has repeatedly failed to follow through on similar signals. But whether rates rise of not, the General Assembly has an opportunity to accomplish a lot without a lot of pain — except that inflicted by Gov. Haley’s stance.
It’s worth a concerted effort to get the bond bill passed before the looming end of the legislative session.