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 Carolinas $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.
Heres 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 states 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 states failing road system.
More money for schools
Democrats and Republicans won in the budget, which included contentious programs expanding childrens 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 states 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.
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.
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
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.