COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s full-day kindergarten for 4-year-olds would be expanded, state workers would get a slight raise and more troopers would be on the highways under a budget proposal advanced Friday by a key Senate committee after a protest over Medicaid.
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee sent the $6.3 billion spending plan to the full Senate. Democrats voted “present” to protest Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility to hundreds of thousands of additional poor adults.
GOP lawmakers and Gov. Nikki Haley have remained steadfast in their opposition to expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.
Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman said he struggled with the issue but decided the state can’t afford the eventual costs.
The federal government pledges to cover all but some administrative costs for the next three years. After that, Leatherman said, he’s not sure where the extra hundreds of millions of dollars would come from.
“I know the need, but I also face the reality that we’ve got to have money,” said Leatherman, R-Florence.
The Senate committee added to the House budget’s Medicaid initiatives that are aimed at improving residents’ health while driving long-term costs down.
The committee put an additional $2 million toward health clinics for the uninsured and underinsured, and $3 million more to community residential care facilities.
Other key differences from the House plan include a 1 percent pay raise for state workers and money to hire 40 troopers.
The Senate committee’s plan puts more money toward public workers’ health insurance, in hopes of reducing an anticipated 20 percent hike for doctor and prescription co-payments. A figure on the reduction is not yet known.
The plan also provides for up to 8,200 additional 4-year-olds living in poverty to attend full-day kindergarten.