- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina taxpayers will need to pay at least $114 million for the state’s share of damage caused by October’s massive flooding, which has a price tag topping $1 billion, the governor said Tuesday.

Gov. Nikki Haley said the state won’t need to borrow any money, and she will ask lawmakers to use part of a predicted increase of more than $1 billion in revenue to pay the bills.

The estimates released at a news conference Tuesday include the state’s obligations for damaged roads, houses and other infrastructure like the Columbia Canal, which was damaged and left the state’s largest city without clean water for more than a week.

The governor also said there have been $181 million in insurance claims to private companies, and the federal government plans on paying about $500 million to help with roads, individual damage claims and assistance to government agencies. Add in the estimated $375 million in direct damage to agriculture, and the total bill for flood damage is around $1.2 billion.

The floods happened after up to 2 feet of rain fell over a few days in early October. The worst flooding extended from Columbia east and south to the coast. Nineteen people died in South Carolina and more than 540 roads and bridges were closed. Less than 70 bridges and roads are currently closed, and officials said 26 of them can’t be fixed now because they run over damaged dams with undecided futures.

Haley said the delay in reporting damage numbers was necessary.

“It’s the accountant in me. You never guess numbers. It’s the worst thing you can ever do. When you guess numbers, you make mistakes,” Haley said.

The governor has two requests of the federal government. She is asking the state’s congressional delegation to obtain $140 million to help repair private homes. The flood, made worse by dams breaking in the Columbia area, affected many people without flood insurance.

Haley is also asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accelerate its payments to South Carolina farmers. They were some of the hardest-hit people, losing crops like peanuts and cotton that were just days from harvest. Some also have drought claims from the summer, where the hot, dry season burned corn crops in the fields.

University of South Carolina economist Doug Woodward said recent growth in the state means it can absorb flood losses better. Plus, rebuilding will stimulate the already growing construction sector, he said.

“There never is a good time for a disaster like this, but there is a good time to have to pay for it,” Woodward said.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins.

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