South Carolina state employees would receive a pay raise in the budget plan nearing completion in the House this week.
Legislators voted in favor of a two percent base pay increase Tuesday afternoon. The total is not as much as the five percent recommended by a bipartisan study committee earlier this year, but is double what the House Ways and Means Committee’s initially proposed last month.
“Your business is only as good as your employees and you need to take care of your employees to have a good business,” House budget chair State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said on the House floor before the vote. “They stuck with us and rode through the tough times. And, as times get better, we will slowly take care of them as we can with the money we have.”
The additional bump came after House budget-writers agreed to drop $130 million in tax relief they originally planned for their version. The move was part of an agreement reached with the Governor’s Office to no longer seek an excise tax on wholesale gas sales to pay for roadwork.
However Democratic legislators said the proposed increase, while needed, does not go far enough. State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, unsuccessfully tried to raise the pay by 3 percent instead, arguing some state employees are so underpaid that they rely on food stamps. “At what point are we going to stop giving them the crumbs after we’ve given all this tax relief,” she said. “When are we going to say to state employees: ‘We value you. You matter’?”
The House also agreed to cover the increase health care costs for employees. However, employees would have to pay a 0.5 percent increase for retirement contributions.