A $22 billion SC budget:What’s in it for you?

jself@thestate.comJune 19, 2013 


    $500 million borrowed to fix roads and bridges


    4K expansion, a small school choice program, $22 million for buses


    No premium hike but higher co-pays for state employees. No statewide Medicaid expansion


    One-year extension of credit fraud protection


    30 new state troopers and 19 new natural resources officers

    What you

    won’t see

    Pay raises for state

    employees. Money for

    new probation agents

    What survived

    the hatchet

    Controversial state

    airplanes. Salary

    supplements for

    national teacher


  • 9 issues: Where they stand Lawmakers are finishing up the first year of a two-year legislative session. Any legislation that did not pass this year can be taken up next year.

    Budget : A $22.8 billion spending plan passed the House and Senate, after both chambers’ leaders worked out a compromise. Now the budget goes to Gov. Nikki Haley, who has five days to issue vetoes. Lawmakers will return next week to take up her vetoes.

    Cyber-security : A bill to create a computer security division, after the massive breach at the state Revenue Department, passed the Senate but failed in a House panel. More than $20 million was earmarked in the budget for hacking remedies. The state is sending out a call for proposals to extend consumer protection services for taxpayers affected by the breach. The state must have a contract in place by October to ensure taxpayers currently signed up for protections do not experience a break in service.

    Department of Administration : The House and the Senate have passed different versions of a bill to create the new department, which would make the governor more accountable for Cabinet agencies and provide more legislative oversight of government, supporters say. A conference committee, made up of lawmakers from both bodies, met to begin working on a compromise, but no decisions were made.

    Education reform : Senate bills to create a statewide reading initiative and expand 4-year-old kindergarten statewide did not pass this year. However, lawmakers included in the budget money to expand 4-year-old kindergarten on a smaller scale and create summer reading camps. A tax break for private-school scholarships in the state budget this year means school-choice proposals likely will get a closer look next year.

    Ethics : The House and Senate passed different versions of a bill overhauling state ethics laws. The full Senate never took a vote on the bill, following negotiations that fell apart after an emotionally charged Senate ethics committee hearing that ended in Sen. Robert Ford’s resignation over accusations that he misused campaign donations.

    Jobs : The Legislature passed, and Gov. Nikki Haley approved, borrowing $120 million for Boeing to expand its North Charleston aircraft plant. Haley has signed bills providing tax credits for manufacturers increasing their port cargo, and for so-called angel investors who create jobs.

    Medicaid expansion : The Legislature’s GOP majority refused to expand the Medicaid program, which provides health insurance to the poor and disabled. The state budget includes a plan to give more money to free and subsidized medical clinics.

    Repairing state’s roads and bridges : The budget includes an extra $50 million a year for the State Infrastructure Bank to use to borrow up to $500 million for interstate and highway projects, and more money for secondary roads and bridge repairs.

    School safety : A Senate bill that would put an armed police officer in every school has bipartisan support but is on hold until next year as lawmakers deal with other budget priorities. Proposals to arm educators have not gained traction.

A bankroll for road repairs, no health insurance premium hike for state employees, tax breaks for private-school scholarships and expansion of 4-year-old kindergarten are highlights of what taxpayers get in South Carolina’s $22.8 billion spending plan approved Wednesday by the General Assembly.

But giving a pay raise to about 55,000 S.C. employees and adding 320,000 people to Medicaid rolls were axed in budget negotiations.

The state budget goes to Gov. Nikki Haley, who has five days to issue vetoes. Next week, the General Assembly will return to take up her vetoes, needing a two-thirds vote in both chambers to overturn them.

Here’s what the state spending plan passed Wednesday means for South Carolinians:

A smoother ride

Lawmakers approved funding that would put a dent in the projected $29 billion needed to repair state roads:

• $50 million to borrow up to $500 million for the state’s interstates and bridges

• $41 million, collected from half of the state sales tax on motor vehicles, for state secondary roads

• $50 million in one-time surplus money for bridge replacement and rehabilitation

A pair of longtime senators — Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, and Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington — called the deal the most significant step the state has taken in years toward fixing the state’s failing road system.

More money for schools

Democrats and Republicans won in the budget, which included contentious programs expanding children’s access to private schools and early childhood programs, but the budget contains increases for education overall as well.

• $77 million more in state funding for students. That amount, critics noted, comes out to $670 per student below what state law says South Carolina should spend.

• $12 million to help cover the expected growth in students attending public charter schools.

• $26 million to expand the state’s 4-year-old kindergarten program for children living in poverty to 17 additional school districts. The program now runs in 36 poor, rural school districts.

• $23.5 million for school buses, which includes $17 million from unclaimed lottery money and other revenue that may or may not materialize.

• A $5,000 salary supplement for teachers who complete National Board Certification. The supplement is awarded annually for no more than 10 years.

• Tax credits for donations made to organizations granting private-school scholarships to disabled students — what advocates of school choice say is just the beginning of private-school choices for students. The state will give up to $8 million in tax credits.

No pay raises for most state employees

Lawmakers rejected a 1 percent pay raise for state employees. That means no pay raises this year, except for corrections officers working at maximum-security prisons. The General Assembly approved $1.7 million in the S.C. Department of Corrections budget for a 3 percent raise for 1,334 officers.

Public school teachers, who are not state employees, will receive a pay increase of about 2 percent, which districts are required by law to provide.

Health care

Instead of giving pay raises, lawmakers decided to approve covering the cost of rising state health insurance premiums, totaling about $54 million. But state workers will face higher costs to use that insurance — state employees face a 20 percent increase in co-payments for their health-care services.

The state rejected an expansion of Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor. Taking $800 million in federal money to expand the program would have provided 320,000 people with health insurance.

More boots

on the ground

The state approved money for hiring nearly 50 new law enforcement officers, including:

• $1.3 million for 30 new state troopers

• $907,000 for 18 new Department of Natural Resources officers

Identity-theft protection

After hackers stole the personal information of 6.4 million consumers, children and businesses from the Department of Revenue last fall, the state offered to foot the bill for credit-fraud services for those affected. More than 1.5 million South Carolinians enrolled.

Lawmakers have agreed to continue paying for those services. The deal includes:

• $10 million for the state to enter a new contract for identity theft protection or monitoring.

• $10.7 million for security upgrades through the state Budget and Control Board.

• Tax deductions of $300 for individuals and $1,000 for joint filers for people who buy their own consumer protection and identity theft-resolution services.

Leaving on a state plane

House and Senate budget negotiators could not agree on limiting or expanding use of the state-owned aircraft — or selling them. The planes have been the center of recent controversies, including for Haley, who used the state aircraft to attend news conferences and bill signings that are prohibited uses.

The result? Lawmakers banned colleges and universities from using the planes for athletic recruiting and left all other rules in place.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658.

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