S.C. House and state Senate lawmakers could not agree on a budget compromise Tuesday, arguing over tax cuts, local government funding and raises for state employees.
All the arguing took place against the backdrop of a good year for tax collections that left lawmakers an extra $1 billion to use in next year’s budget. After years of fighting about budget cuts, this year lawmakers are arguing about what to spend.
House Republicans want to spend $64 million of the new money to cut taxes for small businesses. But the bill they proposed did not pass. Instead, they attached the tax cut to the budget – a legislative maneuver the Senate hates because it bypasses the normal vetting process and can lead to unintended consequences.
“It’s dangerous. Frankly, that’s the way we got video poker (by attaching a bill) late one night on the Senate floor,” said state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, the Senate’s chief budget writer.
House lawmakers gave state workers a 2 percent raise. Senators increased that to 3 percent. Tuesday, House negotiators proposed a compromise: a 2.5 percent raise for state workers. But senators rejected that, saying they wanted to work out other spending disagreements first.
“We don’t need to be using state employees ... as a negotiating tool,” said state Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, the House’s chief budget writer.
Lawmakers also were far apart on how much state money to give local governments. The House gave local governments an extra $10 million; the Senate gave them an extra $40 million.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Leatherman said after the meeting.
Lawmakers adjourned for the year last week but plan to return on Tuesday to finish the budget. House and Senate lawmakers hope to have an agreement by then.