The state of South Carolina will get a budget only days before its fiscal year starts July 1 — well after the state's voters cast ballots in the June 12 primaries.
The delay is because S.C. House and state Senate budget negotiators were unable to hash out a compromise this week on the state's $8.2 billion general fund budget.
In a joint statement Wednesday, S.C. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, said further meetings to reach a budget deal will be postponed.
"The differences that the conferees (budget negotiators) face are numerous and complex," the two said in a statement. "These will take time to analyze ... and to reach a consensus on how to move forward and best serve our people."
What could be holding negotiations up?
- How much to raise teacher pay; the House proposes a 2-percent raise while the Senate proposes a 1-percent raise.
- A one-year law added to the House budget that loosens a cap on rooftop solar power in South Carolina, allowing expansion of solar energy.
- $54 million in the House budget for a new forensics lab for the State Law Enforcement Division.
- $20 million in the Senate budget for deferred maintenance at state colleges and universities.
- Questions about how the state should spend profits from the S.C. Lottery; the House proposes to use some of those dollars for school safety measures, including metal detectors.
- A proposal to remove the $10,000 cap on earnings for state retirees who want to remain — or return — to their jobs.
Budget negotiators had expected to finalize a deal by Thursday, sending it to lawmakers' desks before a final vote in a special two-day session next week. Instead, they agreed Wednesday to have a budget ready for lawmakers when they return to Columbia on June 27 to complete any unfinished legislative business.
The June 27 date means legislators will not adopt a budget before the June 12 primaries and any subsequent runoffs, which would be held June 26.
"We don't think shortcuts on issues as important as those contained in provisos (budget amendments) and funding items is wise," Leatherman and White said in their statement.
"Obviously, there are differences we have over dollars," White told The State. "We're far apart on some issues."
The S.C. Legislature closed its regular 2017-18 session on May 10, leaving lawmakers to return to their home districts, including, in the case of many House members, to campaign for re-election.
However, lawmakers said they would return to the State House for two days next week, May 23-24, and June 27-28 to adopt the state's budget and override or sustain any vetoes by Gov. Henry McMaster, R-Richland.
Separately, lawmakers also will take up legislation addressing the failure of the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project, including possible rate cuts for customers of SCE&G.
"We have plenty of time to get done what needs to be done," White said. "We're OK. We'll get it resolved."