COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget plan she presented Thursday would spend more on computer security and law enforcement.
Her $6.3 billion budget plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 seeks $47 million for computer security following a massive breach at the state’s tax collection agency. More than 40 percent of the money would pay back a loan approved last week by the Budget and Control Board to cover costs incurred so far.
The Department of Revenue is receiving a $20.2 million loan this fiscal year from the state’s insurance reserves.
Haley wants $12.4 million to complete computer upgrades at the agency, plus $3 million for security consultants.
The Republican governor also wants to hire 25 agents to supervise parolees, hire 18 state troopers and upgrade prison officers’ safety.
The only salary increases Haley proposes are to officers that work in the state’s eight maximum security prisons for violent offenders. She recommends giving them a 3 percent boost.
She noted that when she visited Lee Correctional in Bishopville, where inmates took officers hostage in June and September, 60 positions were open. Authorities could not fill them “because people are too scared to work there,” she said
Her budget would spend $10 million to build watch towers at Lee Correctional and buy metal detectors and other equipment at prisons statewide.
“We are sending them in there every day without the tools they need to protect themselves,” Haley said.
Governors generally release their executive budgets in January before session starts. But Haley said she wanted to get her proposal to legislators sooner this year in hopes they’ll use her recommendations as they craft the budget. Haley recognized that legislators largely ignored former Gov. Mark Sanford’s budget plans.
“We don’t do this for kicks and giggles,” she said.
Haley’s $6.3 billion plan represents a 3 percent increase in spending from the state’s general fund, which doesn’t include federal money and other sources such as fines and fees that agencies collect.
Haley’s budget is based on the Board of Economic Advisors’ current predictions for tax collections in 2013-14. The board revises their estimate in the spring, which usually gives legislators more money to work with, though 2008-09 and 2009-10 were exceptions. On average over the last eight years, legislators have had $100 million more to allocate in their final approved spending plan than the governor.
Haley said when the “money tree falls” this spring, legislators should use $26 million of it to cut income taxes. She wants the rest spent on roads and bridges, calling that tax relief.
“This is an option not to increase the gas tax,” she said.
The state transportation department anticipates needing nearly $50 billion over the next 20 years for infrastructure but only receiving $19 billion under the current system. The state motor fuel tax, which has been 16 cents per gallon since 1987, is the agency’s main funding source but is declining due to improved vehicle fuel efficiency and higher costs for gasoline and diesel fuel.
Haley said she will not tolerate any move to increase that tax and considers her plan a start toward addressing the multi-billion-dollar need.
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