THE LEGISLATURE

Proposal would force SC colleges to make cuts

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 11, 2014 

Students walk outside the Horseshoe on the University of South Carolina campus.

ANDREW SHAIN — ashain@thestate.com

S.C. public colleges would have to make cost cuts recommended by a private consultant next year if lawmakers approve a budget amendment supported by a House panel Tuesday.

House budget writers approved a number of budget amendments Tuesday, including forcing local governments to send the state its share of traffic ticket fines and requiring political candidates to pay their ethics fines.

However, the effort to control college spending is a top issue for House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, who has expressed concern about rising college costs after years of tuition hikes.

The amendment that White co-sponsored calls for a committee to work with a consultant and lawmakers to enact recommended college-spending savings. The committee would be made up of appointees chosen by the Legislature and governor as well as a college leader selected by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education. All public colleges would have to follow the savings recommendations by next year.

Other budget amendments approved Tuesday would:

•  Take away law-enforcement certification from cities and counties that don’t pay the state its share of the money collected on traffic tickets. Ticket collections to the state have dropped 25 percent since 2008, state budget-writers said. Legislators also are weighing whether to limit municipal traffic laws that send all fines in local governments.

•  Require political candidates to pay fines levied by the S.C. Ethics Commission, and House and Senate ethics committees before their name can be placed on a ballot. The Ethics Commission has more than $2.5 million in unpaid fines, dating back to 2000, but no teeth to collect them. About 40 percent of the fines are owed by current office-holders.

•  Eliminate a $200,000 identity-theft reimbursement fund for potential victims of the 2012 S.C. Department of Revenue data breach. No claims have been filed since the fund was started in July. The fund was proposed by state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the likely Democratic challenger for governor this year. The money would go back to the state treasury.

•  Allow magistrates to draw juries countywide, instead of from smaller districts inside a county. The move would help end a backlog of trials in the state’s lower courts caused by confusion over potential jurors’ eligibility, based on residency requirements to serve on cases.

•  Ban any spending on academic standards not developed by the S.C. Department of Education. The amendment is aimed at the state’s Common Core education standards, which have been criticized for being created outside South Carolina.

The House Ways and Means Committee and full House must approve the budget amendments before they head to the Senate.

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