The legislative work days are getting longer and we’re nearing the middle of this year’s legislative session which, for the House, means this week was “Budget Week.” After going through the budget line by line and working past midnight Tuesday, we successfully sent this year’s budget to the Senate with only one “nay” vote. (Keep reading for more details on what is included in this year’s budget.)
For years, my colleagues would give me grief during Budget Week because it was my work with then Rep. Nikki Haley that led to these “on the record votes”. More than 300 taken this week to be exact! Prior to the passage of our bill, members didn’t have to be on record for each section of the budget and so you would never know what they stood for or against. You can imagine (or recall if you followed along 8 years ago), how upset my colleagues were that we would actually “make everyone vote on the record”. Lately, they’ve gotten over it and realize it’s the best thing for us to provide transparency to the public.
Another exciting moment for South Carolina happened this week when it was revealed the Carolina Panthers are working on a deal to move their NFL team’s headquarters and training facilities out of Charlotte and into South Carolina! This would be a huge economic win for our state that would drive hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. We are working on legislation that will help make this possible.
It is proving to be a big year for South Carolina’s economy with the Governor and lawmakers finally working together to create a balanced budget, reforming our antiquated tax system, and focusing on efforts to attract and keep businesses in our state.
After months of working with Gov. McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate, we passed our General Appropriation Bill for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This year’s budget is focused on investing in education and workforce development by increasing teacher pay, providing tuition assistance, and funding for workforce training programs.
Not only does the budget not increase taxes, but also it actually provides tax relief in the form of a rebate for everyone who pays income tax. Many amendments were debated. One of which was to add Gov. McMaster’s language to ensure taxpayers will not have to pay for abortion services at Planned Parenthood. That amendment led to hours long debate before ultimately being passed.
When we began assembling this budget, it was important to me that it be built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend. Many agree we have done just that and I hope the Senate doesn’t make too many changes before sending back to us – and ultimately going to a 6 person conference committee (3 House members, 3 Senators). As always, our budget is in balance. We also will get this passed before the deadline.this summer.
Highlights from the 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.
· $50 million for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades.
· $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools.
· $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that don’t already have one and cannot afford them.
· $41 million to raise state employee salaries.
· $49.7 million to cover state employee health and dental insurance increases.
· $32 million for retired state employees, who are covered by the state’s retirement system, to return to work without facing a $10,000 salary cap as long as they have been retired for a year.
Also, unless the Senate pulls the funds to spend on some of their pork projects, every taxpayer will receive a $50 rebate later this year!
There are many important issues we need to address in the weeks ahead, be sure I know which ones are most important to you! Please call me at my State House Office 734-2969, email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov or call me at home at 732-1861. Of course, when you see me around town or at the ballfields or church, take time to say hello and let me get to meet you! I love staying in touch and being reminded of the people I represent in Columbia!