COLUMBIA - Charleston leaders are making a funding push for an African American museum, but that request - and a host of others on Charleston's wish list - could run into the budget buzz saw as lawmakers grapple with competing requests from across the state.
Election-year politics also are likely to play a role, as lawmakers have so far advocated for tax and program cuts. Plus, Lowcountry lawmakers have to fight other regions for their priorities amid a feeling that the Lowcountry gets more than its share.
"There's always a sense that Charleston gets more than the rest of the state," said Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland, whose district includes southern Charleston County and who sits on the Senate's budget-writing committee.
"And we always have to remind our colleagues, sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly .., that also there's a lot of state revenues that come from the coast as well," he said. "And we always fight hard to bring money back to the Lowcountry."
While the S.C. Senate hasn't gotten to the dollars and cents yet, the budget isn't all about money. Lawmakers also have a chance to push their priorities through directives to state agencies.
For example, a Senate committee added language last week to South Carolina's budget to direct the Department of Transportation to protect a large swath of trees on Interstate 26.
State officials' original plan to clear-cut 23 miles of trees, from Summerville to Interstate 95, prompted widespread protest and anger.
The plan was prompted by a Department of Transportation study that tallied 57 of 68 fatal or severe-injury wrecks from 2007 to 2011 that occurred from hitting trees along the route. The most dangerous sections - around five miles of trees - will be cut in accordance with a plan Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, helped broker at a Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments meeting in February. Grooms said the additional language was necessary to ensure the deal went through.
A far less settled issue is shore power for a planned terminal at the Charleston port. House budget-writers have put language in the budget that directs the State Ports Authority to install shore power so cruise ships that enter the port don't have to idle. Environmentalists and neighborhood groups have complained about the pollution coming from idling engines of cruise ships. Most have singled out the Carnival Fantasy, a 25-year-old vessel based in Charleston year-round.
Grooms had the language struck from this year's budget, although the issue will remain on the table until a final budget deal is reached.
Grooms said that while shore power may be a good idea, the state should not instruct the SPA to pay for and install it. Lawsuits fighting the city's new terminal for cruise ships are still being settled, and Grooms does not want to affect the port's negotiating position, he said.
Budget wrangling will continue through the rest of the legislative session, which ends at the beginning of June.
Reach Jeremy Borden at 937-5771.
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