Palmetto Sunrise: Political spotlight swings to Senate on budget, transportation

The Statehouse debate is expected to shift to the Senate. File/AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain

The Statehouse spotlight is swinging toward the Senate after the House has dominated headlines recently.

The increasingly slow-moving and unpredictable Senate passed a domestic violence reform bill early in the session — an effort that may still have a chance of coming through this year. Since, there has been little headway in that chamber on the session’s major priorities of ethics reform and transportation funding, among others.

As we’ve reported, personal politics has played a large role in the Senate’s lethargy.

That could change soon. Senate Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman told his colleagues he wants to pass a bond bill this year — an idea rejected by Gov. Nikki Haley and the House. He hasn’t said what amount the borrowing plan will be, only that he’ll be looking for suggestions from his colleagues on what should be included in the package.

As that debate simmers, the transportation fight is expected to play out over the coming days. The House’s embrace of more transportation funding with a small tax cut passed with a veto-proof majority of 87 votes. Will the Senate do the same?

Their bill, authored by Sen. Ray Cleary, has larger tax and fee hikes to raise revenue and fewer income tax or other reductions, which was originally demanded by some conservatives.

As the AP’s Jeffrey Collins reported, Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, said he and other conservative senators usually against additional spending are aware something must be done to get more money for roads, especially with the pressure being placed on lawmakers from businesses.

Bryant was hoping the House would help by starting with income tax relief closer to the $1.8 billion (or 2 percent) Haley called for address instead of the $51 million a year in the House bill.

“That’s a big number,” Bryant said of the 87 votes in the House. “I was disappointed the number was so lopsided. I’d like to think we can get more income tax relief in there. Maybe it’s something we can negotiate.”

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