Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Includes new paradigm on education funding

S.C. House lawmakers on Monday will start debate on a $14 billion budget filled with never-imagined surpluses.  With so much money at stake, most legislators have been made happy one way or another.  That is expected to lead to little contentious discussion on the floor and relatively quick passage. 

An internal slide show presentation highlights four major priorities of the House Ways and Means Committee’s budget plan: reducing taxes, fixing roads, managing reserves and giving raises to state employees, including big ones to teachers.

House Ways and Means Committee

Taxes: The House plan envisions $1 billion in tax cuts, including more than $600 million in annual income taxes that will grow to $1 billion in five years.  On Thursday, state senators unanimously passed a separate – and bigger – tax relief bill that provides similar cuts to the income tax rate as well as $1 billion in one-time rebates to state taxpayers.

Roads:  The House budget plan calls for $1 billion in new spending on roads.

Reserves:  It provides for $1 billion “saved in reserves.”

Raises: It calls for major raises to teachers and law enforcement officers, as well as a $1,500 bonus to state employees.  According to the document, the minimum starting salary for teachers would go to $40,000 a year, up from $30,311 in 2018. The average teacher salary would jump to more than $52,000 a year.

Budget features new education funding formula

The House budget plan also envisions a new structure to fund public education that moves away from a formula that determined a base student cost among the many factors of school funding.  The new plan calls for a new formula that creates a new metric – “State Aid to Classroom.”  

According to the internal document, “Instead of allocating funding by building up from a base student cost, the budget proposes to allocate state dollars to districts as a percentage of the overall pot.  The percentage of the overall pot each district receives is dictated by each district’s weighted per pupil count and their index of taxpaying ability.”  

The document says State Aid to Classrooms in the new formula will be $4,834 average per pupil, compared to the old base student cost which (at best) was half of that.  Remember, however, that the new metric includes local match and other funds, too, such as former Education Improvement Act funding for districts, at-risk students, teacher salaries, employer contributions and state public charter schools.

In other recent news:

Senate OKs bill for new constitutional convention The South Carolina Senate approved a measure Wednesday in a 27-13 vote that adds the state to the list of about 20 states seeking a convention to make changes to the U.S. Constitution. The House passed a similar measure last month. For a convention to be called, a threshold of 34 states must be met. The only constitutional convention held in the United States was in 1787. More: The Post and CourierThe State.

Teachers, others protest CRT bills ahead of hearingSeveral organizations met on the Statehouse steps March 8 to protest five bills aiming to ban critical race theory from being taught in K-12 classrooms. More: The State.

Proposed legislation would legalize betting on horse races online. A proposed bill could allow South Carolinians to legally bet on horse races, but only through online apps. The proposal is intended to raise money for equestrian activities in the state.

S.C. Senate moves police reform bill forward. A subcommittee of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee voted March 8 to advance legislation imposing more stringent training requirements for police officers after it passed the S.C. House with police backing.

SC gas prices jump big.  Gas prices in the United States are climbing to their highest level since 2008 amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and disruptions to the global energy market. In South Carolina, prices have jumped 50 cents per gallon in the last week to $4.07 per gallon, according to AAA.

Cunningham renews call for temporary suspension of state gas tax. South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham is again calling for the state’s General Assembly to temporarily suspend the state gas tax.

McMaster appealing federal court ruling against fetal heartbeat bill. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s office is appealing a federal court ruling halting South Carolina’s controversial ban on abortions after roughly six weeks. 

Scott scores big win with passage of anti-lynching bill. The U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously approved a House-passed anti-lynching bill long pushed by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a Charleston Republican. The measure, which now goes to President Biden to be signed into law, calls for lynching to be a hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The historic bill is named to honor Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955. 

Trump comes to South Carolina Saturday. Former President Donald Trump is expected to appear at an event 7 p.m. Saturday at the Florence Regional Airport in Florence. Doors for the “Save America Rally” open at 2 p.m. Among those also scheduled to appear are South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Katie Arrington, who is running for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat, currently held by fellow GOP member Nancy Mace. Registration required in advance. Politicos are saying the S.C. stop looks like a soft election campaign for 2024 for the former president. More: WJCLSpartanburg Herald-Journal

Remember to spring forward. A bill passed in 2020 to help pave the way for ending daylight saving time wasn’t enough to stop this year’s “spring forward” on Sunday.

This story originally appeared in Statehouse Report.

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