It took only two days, or about 14 hours, for the House to approve the more than $5.4 billion General Fund budget. While no picnic for legislators, the process was also much shorter than it has been in recent years.
Here is a list of some highlights from the House budget:
– Legislators were able to use some cigarette tax money to avoid heavy cuts to education. However, they made the tradeoff by instead cutting the amount the state pays hospitals to treat Medicaid patients.
– By voice vote, legislators moved to get some control over a new state officer the governor created by secret order last week. The House voted to require Inspector General George Schroeder to report all of his investigative findings to the House Ways & Means and the Senate Finance Committees. It also said savings from his office’s findings had to make his position “self-sufficient,” or else legislators would terminate his position in August.
– The House was rough with lobbyists, quietly voting to double the fee for them to officially register, then preventing them from getting paid directly with taxpayer money.– ETV’s direct funding was also eliminated in the General Fund. However, legislators plan to set aside additional money to pay for ETV’s services through its Other Funds budget. Rep. Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington) said the move will more accurately match the money with ETV’s actions.
– By voice vote, legislators supported a proviso that would create a pilot program to provide in-home nurse call systems for certain Medicaid recipients. The idea is to save money through fewer unnecessary emergency room trips.
– House Republican leaders pushed back against several efforts by members of their own party to cut additional funding– including an effort to eliminate state money for the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
– The Arts Commission and the South Carolina State Museum were both transferred into the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. The Commission kept its staff intact, although it took a slight hit in funding. Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Richland) worried the Arts Commission still faces the governor’s veto. He warned that the House might not have enough votes to override the veto.
– The House also approved an amendment that would require the state Aeronautics Commission to post real-time flight information for South Carolina’s small fleet of planes. Right now, the flight logs and manifests are posted a month afterwards. Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) said the technology exists, it just needs to be put into place.