Politics & Government

Senate to debate state budget

Senators will begin discussions today on a committee’s $7.4 billion draft budget. The debate will last through at least Thursday.

THE PLAYERS

Gov. Mark Sanford. Will make the most noise this week, pushing senators for tax relief and spending cuts. Has already pulled out bags of California green beans and a “spending clock,” and could stage other events. Will Pork and Barrel, piglets he brought to the State House in 2004, return?

Sen. Hugh Leatherman. Little gets done in the budget without the Finance Committee chairman’s approval. He does much of his work behind the scenes, but members also take their cues from what he says during debate. Leatherman believes tax relief should start with cutting sales taxes on groceries.

THE DEBATE

Grocery taxes. The Senate will have to answer two questions: How much and what type of tax to cut. Sanford has pushed for more than $200 million in income tax cuts. The draft Senate budget cuts the sales tax on groceries to 2 percent from 3 percent, saving $55 million.

Income taxes. Sanford supporters will propose adding an income tax cut to the budget. Others will likely ask that the Senate budget match the $81 million tax cut included in the House budget.

THE PROGRAMS

Farmers Market. The Senate budget has trimmed $9 million from a new Shop Road state farmers market. The money was added to correct problems in design and planning. Senators could insist Richland County and project planners help pick up part of the additional costs.

Local projects. Some items, such as a Lake City green bean museum, have drawn criticism form Sanford and supporters. Dozens of local projects are included in the Senate budget. In addition, some lawmakers want to eliminate a grants program that has awarded $22.2 million to nonprofit and local governments across the state.

WHAT’S AHEAD

Go to S.C. Politics Today for updates during the week on Senate budget discussions.

Ahead. After the Senate passes a budget this week, members will need to confer with the S.C. House. The two chambers will have different versions of a state spending plan and differences will need to be worked out. The final product will go to Sanford for his signature. The governor vetoed the whole budget last year but members in both chambers voted to override it.

  Comments