COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina’s 58,000 state employees would get a 1.5 percent raise starting July 1 under a budget proposal approved by a House panel Wednesday.
The proposal set aside nearly $23 million to pay for the raises. But that money only covers the 27,500 employees whose salaries are paid for with state tax dollars. House budget writers did not budget money for the roughly 28,800 state workers whose salaries are paid for with federal money or “other funds,” including fines and fees.
Those employees still would get raises, but the agencies that they work for would have to find the money – $46 million – to pay for them, according to the state budget office.
“We hope that (state workers) will look at this as maybe the glass half full instead of half empty,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a member of the budget subcommittee that approved the proposal. “One and a half, while it may not be what you want, we hope you recognize it is truly better than nothing at all.”
If the proposal passes, it would be the 15th time state workers that have received a raise in the past 21 years. But it would be only the second raise in the last six years following years of budget cuts because of the Great Recession. The state Senate recommended a 1 percent raise last year, but House lawmakers removed it from the budget.
While state workers could get a raise, they would have to pay more to use their health insurance. The budget proposal includes an increase in co-pays to help offset the rising cost of health care.
“We continue to try and fight the battle of the increasing benefits and the cost of providing benefits,” said Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, chairman of the House budget subcommittee that approved the plan. “That’s one of the few ways we can afford to get to those numbers. And it seems like the most equitable.”
Carlton Washington, director of the State Employees Association, called the raises “a good first step.” But he urged broader reforms, including updating the state’s compensation and classification system. The system, which has not been updated since 1995, puts the starting salary for some state workers at $15,080. That 1995 starting salary should be more than $22,700 today, when adjusted for inflation.
“I think that will help to bring employees in line to where they need to be,” Washington said.
The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on the budget proposal Thursday. If it is approved, it then would go to the full House of Representatives. The state Senate is scheduled to take up the budget later this spring.
State employee pay raises
A look at how state workers have fared since 2000
2014-15: 1.5 percent (proposed)
2012-13: 3 percent
2008-09: 1 percent
2007-08: 3 percent
2006-07: 3 percent
2005-06: 4 percent
2004-05: 3 percent
2001-02: 2.5 percent
2000-01: 3.5 percent
SOURCE: Office of State Budget
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.