South Carolina’s $22.8 million budget heading toward Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk contains new money for roads, education and a few other projects unique to the Lowcountry.
The budget also contains ...
Cyber-security: About $10 million to extend credit fraud protection offered to state residents in the wake of last year’s hacking incident at the S.C. Department of Revenue. Also, there’s $10.7 million for security upgrades to the state’s computer systems.
Wildlife officers: The budget would add 19 new natural resources officers.
Medicaid expansion: The budget does not expand the Medicaid program, but it does provide more money to medical clinics that serve the poor and disabled.
State employees: Won’t see a pay raise this year, but the state is covering the approximately $54 million more it will cost to provide them with health insurance. Still, employees will see their co-payments go up by 20 percent.
Charter schools: The budget has $12 million to help cover the expected growth in students attending public charter schools.
School buses: The contains $23.5 million to upgrade the state’s fleet of school buses.
Here is a look at how the spending plan — still subject to Haley’s veto pen — will affect the Charleston area.
Roads and bridges
The budget has $40 million to help address a backlog of repairs and upgrades on state highways — and $50 million a year more to let the State Infrastructure Bank tackle about $500 million more in projects.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said it’s too soon to say which specific projects will be built, but some possible beneficiaries are plans to widen Interstate 26 beyond Summerville, upgrade roads around Boeing’s North Charleston plant and improve S.C. Highway 165 and the Berlin G. Myers Parkway.
Since the Department of Transportation will see a 30 percent increase in funding, motorists can expect to see more state roads repaved.
The state currently mandates that every school district offer a half-day class of pre-kindergarten for at-risk students, but the budget contains $26 million to expand the 4-year-old kindergarten programs in 17 counties.
Among the beneficiaries are the Dorchester 4, Colleton 1 and Georgetown school districts. Pre-kindergarten programs already run in 36 school districts, including Berkeley County.
The budget also contains $1 million to help cover the rising cost of renourishing Folly Beach.
The money will help the city get to the $3 million in state and local matching money required for the project, which is expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million.
“I’m excited for Folly,” state Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, said, adding that he still was uneasy about how legislators directed that money. Thurmond said he proposed allowing the state’s eight to 10 beach municipalities to raise hotel taxes to cover the cost, but it didn’t pass the House.
Tuition tax credits
Some state lawmakers have been pushing for years for private vouchers that would help parents defray the cost of sending their children to private schools.
The Legislature didn’t create a voucher program, but its budget did move in that direction, following an example that Georgia has set.
Specifically, it budgeted $8 million for tax credits that can be claimed by organizations that grant scholarships to special-needs students.
Grooms said the Education Oversight Committee first must find such organizations qualified, and it’s unclear how many will emerge — or how popular the credits will be. “I don’t know of any group that is trying to do that at the moment,” he said Thursday. “We didn’t know it would actually happen until yesterday.”
Those speeding along South Carolina highways might have noticed fewer troopers in recent years — and they were right.
The budget would change that, at least a little. The budget has $1.3 million to add 30 state troopers.
Currently, the S.C. Highway Patrol has about 770 troopers, down from almost 1,000 five years ago.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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