The Legislature sent the governor a budget Thursday that gives public workers a pay raise, fully funds a crucial port-deepening project and provides tax relief to businesses. The budget includes $1.3 billion in additional one-time and recurring revenue but remains below pre-recession spending levels. The $6.7 billion budget includes a 3 percent pay increase for most state employees, though state law enforcement officers who make less than $50,000 get a 5 percent boost. The bill also covers state employees’ rising health insurance premiums and provides $48 million to school districts to increase teachers’ pay by 2 percent. The budget puts an added $153 million in the state’s main funding source for public schools, increasing its per-student allocation by $132 to $2,012. It sets aside $300 million to dredge the Charleston harbor to a 50-foot depth, including $120 million to cover the federal government’s share if necessary. It reduces the income tax rate that small business owners pay on their earnings from 5 percent to 3 percent over three years. The budget also provides businesses relief through unemployment insurance, by providing $77 million toward keeping rates down, and puts $25 million in a Commerce fund that helps close economic development deals.
Bill keeps government running for time being
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a measure Thursday that keeps government running until the new budget takes effect. She signed it two hours before a 4 p.m. payroll deadline, guaranteeing that 43,800 public workers get paid as scheduled Monday. The Legislature passed the continuing resolution that morning, as well as a $6.7 billion spending plan that is unlikely to take effect by midnight Saturday for the new fiscal year. The law gives Haley five days to issue her line-item vetoes.
USC can borrow to advance high-tech hub
The University of South Carolina received authorization Wednesday to borrow $13 million to outfit more research space at the high-tech hub that Gov. Nikki Haley referred to as a mess. The Budget and Control Board voted unanimously to approve funding for phase two of USC’s Innovista project. The bonds will pay half the cost of preparing 47,000 square feet worth of offices and laboratories for research in nuclear science, hydrogen, fuel cells and the aerospace industry. The project involves finishing two vacant floors of an Innovista building in downtown Columbia.
House fails to override Haley HPV bill veto
The South Carolina House failed Tuesday to override Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of a bill intended to provide information on and access to a free vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted, cancer-causing virus. The House’s 54-47 vote killed the bill, which called for informational brochures on the vaccine for human papillomavirus, known as HPV, to be provided to parents of sixth-graders. Parents could choose to have their seventh-graders receive the vaccine. The bill specifies those provisions depend on funding. Haley called it a suspended unfunded mandate. Rep. Bakari Sellers, the bill sponsor, accused Haley of putting politics ahead of women’s health.