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House OKs 2% pay hike for SC employees, nearly $400 million for roads

tdominick@thestate.com

The S.C. House approved a 2 percent pay hike for state workers Tuesday as part of the $7.5 billion general fund budget that takes effect July 1.

Representatives also approved nearly $400 million more for road repairs in the spending plan.

“State employees deserve better from us,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, who has advocated for a 5 percent raise for state workers.

Cobb-Hunter tried unsuccessfully to push through a larger pay hike for state employees.

However, the House approved paying for state employees’ increased health-care costs. But employees would have to pay 0.5 percent more of their salaries for their retirement. The full S.C. House also approved “step” — or experience — increases for teachers and also raising their salaries by 2 percent.

Meanwhile, House members approved nearly $400 million for road repairs. Of that, $50 million would go to counties for less-trafficked road repairs. Another $316 million in added money would go to the Transportation Department for road repairs.

The House also approved spending $49 million to pay for flood repairs that the state’s roads agency made during the historic October storm, increasing the total added spending on roads by $415 million.

House Democrats pushed to increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents, but that measure failed.

S.C. roads chief Christy Hall urged House members to send the added money to the Transportation Department, instead of counties, saying the cash was needed to pay for repairs on major non-interstate S.C. roads.

“(O)ur analysis of statewide road conditions indicates that the primary system is in a state of crisis,” Hall wrote to House members Tuesday.

About 80 percent of the pavement on major non-interstate roads is in disrepair, Hall said, adding those roads carry nearly half of S.C. traffic.

South Carolina’s major non-interstate roads now are being repaved on a 24-year cycle instead of the industry standard of 10 years, Hall said. Once pavement on those roads erodes into poor condition, they typically require complete reconstruction at a higher cost, she added.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

S.C. House budget

The S.C. House was considering a roughly $7.5 billion state general fund budget proposal late Tuesday. They approved:

▪  More than $350 million in added money for S.C. schools, including $217.6 million to increase to $2,350 a student the money that goes to schools and $19.2 million for bus driver salaries. The per-pupil spending is $466 million short of the amount called for by state law.

▪  $212.5 million for the local government fund, the same amount sent to counties and cities last year. That is about $100 million less than state law says the state should send to counties for performing state-mandated functions.

▪  An additional $129 million for the Health and Human Services Department to offset annual expenses that the agency has been paying for with savings

▪  $60 million for the state and local government’s portion of flood-recovery costs to match federal money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency

▪  $49 million to the Transportation Department for repairs made during the flooding

▪  $40 million for beach renourishment along the state’s coast

▪  $40 million for grants to S.C. farmers whose crops were washed away during the flooding

▪  $17 million more for Department of Commerce’s deal-closing fund, used to entice companies to locate in S.C.

▪  $5 million more for repairs to National Guard armories

▪  $661,500 for added dam-safety staff at the Department of Health and Environmental Control

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