SC politics: State workers to pay more for their pensions

June 19, 2014 

Selling The Capitol

The South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C

BRUCE SMITH — AP

Public workers to pay more in 2015 for pensions

S.C. public workers again will pay slightly more of their salary to maintain their retirement benefits.

The Budget and Control Board this week unanimously approved increasing the contribution rates for both employees and their public employers, starting July 1, 2015.

More than 224,000 employees contribute to the state’s five separate retirement systems.

Workers in the main benefit system will see 8.16 percent of their salaries deducted, up from 8 percent. The schools, colleges, agencies and local governments they work for also must contribute an additional 0.16 percent, to 11.06 percent. Those increases are paid for by taxpayers.

Contribution rates for law enforcement officers and firefighters, and their employers, will rise by 0.33 percent. First responders will see 8.74 percent of their salaries deducted, while their employers – through taxpayers – will pay 13.74 percent.

A 2012 law required nearly all public workers to pay more, as part of changes meant to keep the state’s pension systems solvent for decades to come. But consultants have again warned the law’s scheduled increases aren’t enough to sustain the systems.

State House to open on Saturdays for tours

The State House will be open for free weekly public tours on Saturdays starting July 12, legislators decided Thursday.

The State House will open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays along with its gift shop. The State House will be closed on the Saturdays after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“It’s a big event for Columbia,” said Duane Parish, director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, who added hotels can tout the tours to the area’s 4 million visitors annually.

The State House now is open for tours during weekdays and the first Saturday of each month. More than 100 visitors come to the State House on average on Saturdays, state officials said.

Added security will cost about $30,000 a year, said Leroy Smith, director S.C. Department of Public Safety.

That added money is not budgeted, but legislators, who kept referring to the State House as “the people's house,” told Smith to find the money.

McMaster rolls out new ads, allies

Henry McMaster debuted new television and radio ads Thursday for next week’s GOP runoff for lieutenant governor.

McMaster’s campaign also said that former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a 2016 White House hopeful, will campaign for the former S.C. attorney general next Monday in the Upstate.

The television ad touts the former S.C. attorney general’s efforts to fight the Affordable Care Act and his ties to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who appointed him to the State Ports Authority. He also co-chaired her ethics reform task force.

“I am ready to stand with Gov. Haley to root out corruption, protect our seniors and fight for lower taxes,” McMaster says.

The radio ad aims to appeal to conservatives, noting his appointment as U.S. attorney by President Ronald Reagan.

The McMaster campaign did not release the amount spent on the ads.

McMaster led the four-candidate GOP field with 44 percent of the vote in the June 10 primary. He faces Columbia businessman Mike Campbell, who received 24 percent of the vote, in the runoff.

The winner of the runoff on Tuesday will meet Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers in November.

Belton endorses Thompson in Democratic runoff for schools chief

Tom Thompson, a Democratic candidate for S.C. superintendent of education, has picked up an endorsement from a former opponent.

Montrio Belton of Fort Mill endorsed Thompson of Forest Acres. Thompson will face Sheila Gallagher of Florence in the June 24 runoff for the Democratic nomination.

“I know him to be a thoughtful, knowledgeable and well-respected educator,” Belton said.

Belton finished last among four candidates in the June 10 primary, receiving 18.5 percent of votes. Thompson received 26.3 percent, placing behind Gallagher at 36.4 percent.

Cassie Cope, Andrew Shain, The Associated Press

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