Photo by Vladimir Solomianyi on Unsplash

The S.C. House approved a $13.8 billion budget for 2023-24 that focused on big pay raises for teachers and state employees.  The annual spending plan, generally considered the biggest legislative priority for each year, now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Under the budget, which was adopted Wednesday after sometimes contentious interruptions between right-wing Republicans in the S.C. Freedom Caucus, called for starting salaries for teachers and state employees to go up by $2,500 a year.  Raises would help deal with hiring crises in teaching and other jobs, such as law enforcement and corrections.

The House proposal, called a “transformational budget” by House Speaker Murrell Smith, would bump pay by that amount for state employees who earn less than $83,000, while those who earn more could get a 3% raise.  The amounts are different to help all deal with the costs of inflation, officials said.

All totaled, the House budget calls for $124 million in annualized raises, which The State newspaper reported was the largest in South Carolina history.  Other big ticket highlights in the budget:

  • $1.3 billion:  Cost of tax incentives to lure Scout Motors to the state.  It is expected to employ 4,000 people in Richland County.
  • $380 million: Increase in academic college and workforce development scholarships.
  • $200 million: Extra money to the state Department of Transportation to accelerate bridge repair work.
  • $200 million: Investment in road, water and sewer infrastructure to attract new businesses.
  • $261 million: Added funding for boosted teacher pay from above via the state’s aid to classrooms.  The spending is expected to boost a starting teacher’s salary to $42,500.
  • $196 million: Increase costs to the state’s share of Medicare and Medicaid health care spending due to higher programmatic costs.
  • $121 million: Money to counterbalance an insurance premium hike so state employees don’t have to pay more for health insurance.
  • $96 million: Cost of a second year of a phased-in income tax cut. 
  • $84 million: Cost to freeze tuition rates for students at S.C. colleges, universities and technical colleges.

In other recent news:

Lawmakers want Eckstrom to lose job after huge error. State lawmakers say S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom should lose his job over a $3.5 billion accounting error after he disclosed an unintentional exaggeration of how much money the state had.  “To ensure accuracy in the state’s finances, all the duties of his office need to be transferred immediately to one or more agencies that will produce documents that we can rely on and have confidence in,” state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, told The State newspaper.

Brack column named best in state. Three 2022 columns by editor and publisher Andy Brack that appeared in Statehouse Report were named “best of the best” in South Carolina at the S.C. Press Association awards banquet last week.  The columns also are published in the Report’s sister publication, the Charleston City Paper, which won 25 press excellence awards, including 10 first places.

$1.3B Scout Motors incentive passes Houses, heads to McMaster. A $1.3 billion incentive package to entice Scout Motors to build a plant in the Town of Blythewood has passed the S.C. House and is now headed to Gov. Henry McMaster.

Bright new billboards celebrate trans kids, LGBTQ+ people. Seven bright yellow billboards touting “God loves trans kids” and “God loves LGBTQ+ people” are the backbone of a new statewide awareness campaign unveiled Tuesday by the Charleston nonprofit Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA).  One of the billboards is scheduled to be on Gervais Street near the Statehouse.

McMaster nominates Shrivastava-Patel to be DHEC chair. Gov. Henry McMaster nominated Seema Shrivastava-Patel as the new chair for the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

S.C. Senate advances bill banning property purchases by Russians, Chinese. The primary goal of the bill sent to the Senate floor is to curtail operations by companies and individual citizens of countries the U.S. government considers a “foreign adversary” from buying or controlling land in South Carolina.

S.C. considers limits on high-interest loans. South Carolina lawmakers are weighing a proposal to cap interest rates and fees lenders can charge on loans to help people from paying what some call exorbitant fees.

Haley wants entitlement program changes for younger generations. At a campaign rally Monday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley proposed changes to entitlement programs for younger generations without taking away from Social Security and Medicare for seniors.

Furman advances, CofC ends season. No. 13 Furman beat No. 4 Virginia 68-67 in Thursday’s NCAA first-round game to advance to the second round Saturday against San Diego State, which beat the College of Charleston Thursday. 

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