House leaders called it one of the quickest and least contentious budgets they’d ever seen as the General Assembly voted to approve $5.4 billion in General Funds Tuesday night. Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) said legislators were able to stretch funding to keep most agencies intact.
The House proved that economic development and education are the top priorities of our state. While other states have been taking on billions of dollars in debt and raising taxes in their budgets, the South Carolina House approved a balanced budget for state government.
Representatives will take a procedural vote Wednesday before the budget moves to the Senate.
The House version adds $350 million more in the General Fund than was contained in last year’s budget. However, total state spending would fall by more than $100 million when other funds are factored in.
Lawmakers were able to restore some educational money, with per-pupil funding — the amount the state gives school districts for each student enrolled– increasing by $293 to $4,778 per student. However, legislators agreed the number was still too low.
The ease of its passage did not mean everyone was happy about the budget. Democrats worried a proposed cut to Medicaid provider rates would hurt lower-income families and could cost as many as 5,000 jobs.
Rep. Joe Neal (D-Richland) said the cuts to Medicaid and teachers’ pay would hit some households particularly hard.
We’ve had some success and we’ve had some failures. The successes are it wasn’t as bad in cuts as we thought it would be. But it was bad enough.
House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-Clarendon) said the budget did little to create jobs and would instead hurt future job growth by cutting the provider rate and keeping a controversial unemployment tax in place. Republicans countered that the budget includes $10 million for the Department of Commerce to recruit businesses and $14 million for technical colleges to offer job training.
Ott said the state needs to improve its tax system so it doesn’t have to continue cutting its budget every year.
Spending the revenue that falls into the coffers of the state is the easy part. Anybody can spend money… the hard part is making the fundamental changes in the direction that we run the state of South Carolina.
The House approved the budget by a 77-42 vote, with four Democrats– Mike Anthony, Walt McLeod, James Neal, and Denny Neilson– breaking ranks to vote for it. Three Republicans and one Democrat did not cast a vote.