Press Release

Tax cuts, teacher raises and a few social issues in South Carolina budget compromise

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A budget compromise reached by a small group of lawmakers Friday means South Carolina will accelerate a planned income tax cut, raise the salaries of all teachers and state employees and send more money to adult and juvenile prisons.

A conference committee agreed to the more than $13 billion spending plan for next budget year, sending it on to the House and Senate to approve at a special session Wednesday.

And as always, there are social issues that weren’t taken up in the regular session that will be included as one-year special items in the budget.

Lawmakers want to ban public school students from using cellphones during class time, require students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex assigned at birth and require libraries to provide detailed plans on how they will keep inappropriate material out of the hands of children or lose state funding. The details will be up to state agencies to figure out.

“I think this is a budget we can all be proud of,” said Democratic state Sen. Nikki Setzler of West Columbia, who worked on his last budget as he retires from the Senate after 48 years.

Tax cuts took center stage in the spending portion of the budget for fiscal year 2024-2025.

Instead of a House-suggested one-time $500 million in a property-tax rebate, the Senate plan chooses to spend $100 million to knock the income tax rate most people pay in the state from 6.4% to 6.2% The state is in the middle of a five-year effort to cut its top income tax rate from 7% to 6%, and this cuts the time to four years.

The $500 million comes from an account meant to provide property tax relief. Sales tax goes into the fund, and a boom in spending during and after the COVID-19 pandemic has left the account flush with cash. The budget calls for spending the remaining money on bridges and roads as well as sewer and water projects.

A one-year property tax cut appeared to be hard to implement and might anger homeowners when their bill went back up, Republican House Ways and Means Chairman Bruce Bannister said Friday.

The House and Senate split the difference in how much of a raise to give state employees. Workers making under $50,000 a year will get a $1,125 yearly increase while those making more than that will get a 2.25% raise. The Senate had proposed a higher raise.

The budget puts $200 million toward raising teacher pay. Every teacher would get a raise, and the minimum salary for a starting teacher would be increased to $47,000 a year — a nearly 70% increase from a decade ago. The budget also would allow teachers to get a yearly raise for each of their first 28 years instead of their first 23.

The budget proposal includes $175 million to finish work on the new school for veterinary medicine at Clemson University and $100 million for a new medical school at the University of South Carolina.

Lawmakers want to spend $29 million to upgrade the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice prisons and $28 million on technologies to make cellphones inoperable for inmates who have the contraband technology behind bars.

The new budget year starts July 1, leaving a tight timetable to get the spending plan passed through the General Assembly and the up to five days the governor gets to review it and issue vetoes.

The lawmakers on the conference committee said the weeks of negotiations are needed to go over the budget thoroughly and make sure people with different perspectives and ideas are all heard.

“If you go in there ‘it’s my way or the highway’ you may have to hit the highway for a while,” Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Harvey Peeler said.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button