Politics & Government

To fix teacher shortage, state agency vacancies, SC looks to familiar faces: retirees

Why South Carolina state pay does not stack up to other states, careers

South Carolina's state employees are not paid as well as other states' employees. Here are the numbers behind it.
Up Next
South Carolina's state employees are not paid as well as other states' employees. Here are the numbers behind it.

S.C. lawmakers again are trying to pass a proposal to help shore up the state’s ongoing teacher shortage and fill vacancies at law enforcement and fire departments and other state agencies across South Carolina.

The renewed bipartisan House effort, advocates say, makes them hopeful it might work this time.

This week, the House’s budget committee OK’d legislation — H. 3620 — that would let state retirees return to schools, sheriff’s offices or other state jobs at least a year after they retire and be exempt from the state’s $10,000 salary cap for working retirees.

The House passed a similar proposal as part of the state budget earlier this month. It now is under consideration by the state Senate.

“Agencies continue to talk about a lack of experience, the inability to retain exceptional employees, who provide critical services,” said Carlton Washington, head of the S.C. State Employees Association. “This provides an opportunity to relieve some of that pressure.”

State law limits how much money state retirees can earn if they return to a state job.

Critics say the cap discourages experienced workers from rejoining the state’s workforce, forcing them to find work elsewhere, including in the private sector. Another side effect of the current law, state leaders acknowledge, is that it created a loophole that allows state retirees to return to their jobs — but while working for third-party contractors.

That arrangement can reduce the amount paid into the state’s already underfunded retirement system, a loophole the bill’s sponsor hopes to close.

“The bill does more than the (one-year) proviso to make sure that rules are being followed,” said bill sponsor House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, R-York. “There are a number of ways to circumvent the system now and this should help prevent that.”

But the legislation faces a looming deadline. If the House fails to send the bill to the Senate by April 10, the Legislature’s “crossover deadline,” it likely won’t be able to pass until 2020. However, Pope said he’s “very hopeful” it will get a vote on the floor next week.

“We have law enforcement officers retiring and taking their talents to other states or the private industry,” said Jarrod Bruder, head of the S.C. Sheriff’s Association. “This would help us keep the talent and those who have a desire to serve.”

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.
  Comments