The 2019-2020 budget is built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend.
Since Republicans became the majority party in the S.C. House of Representatives in 1995, more than $42 billion has been returned to taxpayers. These tax cuts and rebates have taken the form of:
• $220 million that residential homeowners deduct annually from taxes they would have paid for school operating expenses.
• $217 million that seniors in our state save every year in homestead exemption taxes.
• $650 saved on average per family per year since we completely eliminated the tax on groceries.
• $108 million that married couples save annually because we eliminated the marriage penalty that married couples had to pay when filing their taxes jointly.
• $5 million students save every year since we reduced college tuition for instate students.
• $52 million last year alone that small businessmen and women save each year in lower unemployment insurance costs – the largest rate cut ever.
Because of our fiscally conservative budgeting, South Carolina is currently one of only fourteen states with a AAA credit rating according to Moody’s. Our debt level is 0.39% of state revenues which is significantly lower than our constitutionally set limit of 5%.
In addition to efficiently funding the normal core functions of government, this year we are making substantive investments in education and workforce development. We have prioritized public and higher education not only because we owe it to our students, but also to ensure our students are better prepared for the workforce and to fill the 72,000 technical jobs currently vacant in our state. We believe that a good education provides the foundation every man, woman, and child needs to have their own chance to succeed in our state’s new prosperity.
Serving on the House Ways and Means Committee (a/k/a “the budget committee”) these past 3 years has provided me valuable insight into the awesome responsibility of investing and prioritizing your tax dollars to achieve the best results for our state.
The following are a few of the highlights of the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget:
• Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.
• $44 million to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students.
• Nearly $68 million for improvements to workforce partnership programs in technical colleges, including funding for training new workers and purchasing new workforce equipment.
• $10 million to start the effort to put a school resource officer in every school.
• $2.2 million to begin giving schools access to the services of a mental health counselor.
• State Aid to Classrooms that will increase average per pupil spending to $3,840.
• $20 million for new textbooks and updated student instruction materials.
• $19 million for new school buses to replace South Carolina’s aging school bus fleet with newer, more fuel-efficient models.
• $85 million for the Rural Infrastructure Plan that will bring jobs and investment to the state’s poorest rural school districts.
• $100 million for maintenance, renovation, and capital needs for our state’s four-year colleges and two-year campuses.
• $50 million for health insurance rate increases for state employees.
• $5.5 million for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. These funds will bring S.C. up to the southeastern average and enable more children to have health insurance coverage.
• $6 million to combat the opioid crisis through education and treatment programs.
• More than $10 million to provide key DSS support workers a pay raise, an increase from $12/hour to $13/hour.
• $4.4 million to provide law enforcement and firefighters a pay raise.
• $42 million to provide state employees an across the board 2% pay raise.
• With the surplus money in the budget this year every taxpayer will receive a one-time refund.
• $40 million for new voting machines to ensure our election process is secure and fair.