March 16, 2018

The SC House of Representatives focused solely on one issue this week – debating the state’s ‘General Fund’ budget that totals $8.2 billion. Months of committee hearings by budget writers resulted in a couple of hundred votes over several days including one 15 hour day of debate.

The proposed total state budget is nearly $28 billion. Nearly 70-percent of that comes from specific federal government programs and through the state’s ‘Other Funds’ budget from tuition, fees and fines.

As proposed, next year’s General Fund budget totals $8.2 billion. Let’s put that in perspective. The last General Fund budget before the ‘Great Recession’ totaled $6.7 Billion (FY 2007-2008). The General Fund spending was slashed 23% during the recovery and bottomed out at $5.1 Billion (FY 2010-2011) with many critical state services severely hampered. This budget proposal is $8.2 billion. Factor in only inflation (and not SC’s significant population growth) to the pre-recession budget and this year’s proposed budget represents a 4% real increase over the past 11 years.

The budget passed overwhelmingly 116-2. It always reminds me of something I wrote here 5 years ago .

Here’s a list of some key funding items in this proposed budget:

Big Ticket Items

$599 million in direct tax relief for South Carolinians
$22 million to fully fund SC’s ‘Rainy Day’ Reserve Fund (totals $515 million)
$56.4 million to cover 100% of increases for state workers’ health plan
$32 million to reduce multi-billion pension liability

K-12 Public Education
$60 million for teacher salary increase of 2%
$5 million to increase starting salary for teachers
$32 million in additional K-12 per-student funding
$13 million for SC Public Charter School student growth
$11 million for technical assistance for low-performing schools

Higher Education
$50 million for maintenance needs at colleges around the state
$11 million for Workforce Scholarships at Technical Colleges
Full funding for Lottery scholarships

$26 million to maintain Medicaid services at current level
$11 million in increased funding aimed at addressing Opioid epidemic

Items NOT Included in the Budget Proposal

A 2-percent pay increase for all state workers was rejected, despite two attempts to amend the budget to include the needed pay increase. About 75-percent of all state workers earn less than $41,000 a year. Half earn less than about $34,000, according to the state Department of Administration. The Legislature hasn’t funded cost-of-living raises for all state agencies since 2016. I voted to support the pay increase.

Funds to hire additional trained school resource officers for our state as called for by Gov. Henry McMaster. Of the state’s 1,195 public schools, only about half have school resource officers. I voted to support this resource.