The state will have $7.5 billion in its general fund to spend next fiscal year, state economists estimated Monday.
Lawmakers will begin deciding how to spend that money – $283 million, or 3.9 percent, more than in this year’s budget, which started July 1 – when they return in January.
“Against a backdrop of continued strong employment picture, the board is projecting a continued, steady increase in revenue for state government for the next fiscal year,” said Chad Walldorf, chairman of the Board of Economic Advisors.
Some of the new money could go toward paying for the state’s crumbling roads.
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Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has said she will unveil a plan in January to pay for road repairs. Haley has said she would veto any increase to the state’s 16.8-cent-a-gallon gas tax, which has not increased since 1987 and is one of the lowest in the nation.
A House transportation committee is meeting to devise a plan to address roads in the legislative session.
The state’s general fund budget is made up of mostly of sales tax, and personal and corporate income tax income.
The board officially projected 4.3 percent growth in personal income – either because of higher wages, more workers in the state or a combination of the two — for next fiscal year’s budget.
After previous recessions, South Carolina’s employment and income have bounced back faster, said the board’s chief economist, Frank Rainwater. After the end of the Great Recession, there has been more modest but steady growth in employment and income, he said.
In addition, the board approved $298 million in estimated transfers from the S.C. Education Lottery to pay for education and college scholarships. Last year, lottery profits transferred to pay for education programs were higher than expected — at $323 million — due to popular games.
“We don’t low-ball you, but we’re never going to high-ball you either,” lottery director Paula Harper Bethea told the board about that estimate.
Bethea said it is difficult to budget lottery profits because of fluctuations and uncertainties, such as when a big jackpot will occur attracting more gamblers, how many winners there will be or how many people do not claim prizes.
“It is our intent to come back to you when we get further along in our fiscal year and adjust upward what we hope to transfer,” she said.