MORNING BUZZ: The $24 billion question

Posted by ANDREW SHAIN and JAMIE SELF on March 9, 2014 

— For $24 billion, South Carolina could buy the world's top dozen sports franchises.

The same amount would run the state next year.

The S.C. House is taking the unusual step and meeting Monday to begin what's expected to be three days of budgets votes.

The spending proposal includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for state employees, 31 new State Law Enforcement Division agents and at least $65 million for an education initiative backed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

Probably the most controversial part of the budget involves just $70,000 -- the amount of money cut from the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina-Upstate for requiring freshmen to read gay-themed books.

Watch for amendments on items that did not earn a spot in earlier budget talks or make their debut during the frantic days of voting.

House Democrats said they will focus on accepting the federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, winning state worker and teacher pay raises, increasing base student cost and funding local governments so they don't have to charge fees when people pay with credit cards.

"There is no significant investment in our roads, our schools, or healthcare in this budget," House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford. D-Richland, said in a statement. "Year after year, Republicans refuse to roll up their sleeves and deal with the most important issues facing our state. That strategy may help them get re-elected, but it continues to hurt our state."

Haley polled for 2016

Gov. Nikki Haley won't talk about 2016 before her re-election race in 2014 but that doesn't mean folks aren't mentioning her for the White House.

The Lexington Republican was included in a Senate Conservatives Fund 2016 presidential straw poll. She finished next to last among 15 governors and U.S. senators and representatives, beating only New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

She received .4 percent of the 41,000 votes cast. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the straw poll with 42 percent of votes, followed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., with 17 percent, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 10 percent.

See how Haley and others stacked up here.

The Clicks

How S.C. State got to this point: There is lots of blame to go around for South Carolina State University’s $13.6 million cash shortfall, top state lawmakers and alumni say. Blame legislators and S.C governors. The state has not provided enough money to the state’s only historically black public college, critics say. Also, legislators and Gov. Nikki Haley say they that even today – after a decade of rumblings about problems – they are not sure what is going on or how to help the troubled Orangeburg school. In part, one legislator said, that ignorance stems from the state’s white political leaders’ fear of being “considered racist” if they crack down on the state’s only historically black public university. Blame the school’s leadership. Meddling trustees led to near-constant turnover in the president’s office. School leaders also papered over years of accumulated debt. Blame the federal government. Financial aid cuts have helped slice S.C. State’s student body to just more than 3,000 from close to 5,000 in just six years. Full Story

McConnell: No Charleston merger bill this year: Legislative proposals to merge the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina, creating a larger research university in Charleston, will not have enough time to pass this year, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell told The State. McConnell, one of the three finalists for president of the College of Charleston, added he might not need a merger with MUSC to put his alma mater on the same research-university footing as Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. If he gets the job, McConnell said he would push for legislation next year allowing the College of Charleston to offer doctorate degrees, creating a third full-fledged research university in the state. Full Story

Who will stop the Dem-orrhage?: Dear S.C. Democrats: The Buzz noticed you’ve been a little wan lately, perhaps due to the candidates you bled out last week? Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a senator thanks to no votes ever, may waltz his way into one of the easiest incumbencies in state history after Democrat Rick Wade dropped out of the Senate race Thursday. Full Story

House and Senate bills target abortions, providers: Bills in the state House and Senate seek to limit abortions and their providers, even as the number of abortions performed in South Carolina decline, the Greenville News reports. Full story

Sheheen pings Haley for state park's stocking autobiography: State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, and Gov. Haley's presumptive challenger, says state parks' stocking Haley's autobiography is an inappropriate use of state resources, the Greenville News reports. Full story

Sheheen reaches out to women voters: State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, took his campaign for the governor's office to a Krispy Creme in Spartanburg Saturday, where he met with a small group of women leaders to discuss launching his Women for Sheheen campaign initiative, the Spartanburg Herald Journal reports. Full story

DeMint: Americans losing faith in U.S.: Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, warned Saturday that Americans are beginning to lose faith in the country, The Hill reports. Full story

Realtors group launches insurance bill site: South Carolina Realtors has launched a campaign to drum up support for a state bill intended to lower homeowner insurance rates, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reports. Full story

Democratic candidate for state schools chief launches campaign: Montrio Belton, the sole Democrat running for state Superintendent of Education, launched his campaign Saturday in Abbeville, the Index-Journal reports. Full story

State House today

Full S.C. House meets at 1 p.m.: The 2014-15 budget is the main event

S.C. House meetings

    12:30 pm -- Blatt Room 516 -- Judiciary Election and Ethics Laws Subcommittee

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