A select group of House and Senate lawmakers tasked with a state budget compromise met into the night Tuesday after haggling over one item for most of their afternoon meeting.
At issue was an additional $20 million in small business tax breaks the House wanted to extend into the following fiscal year. After agreeing to $40 million for the upcoming year, Senators fought that idea. The panel had agreed on just about everything else.
AUDIO: House Democrat Harry Ott tried to make his case with Senate Democrat John Land (:25)
Senate Minority Leader John Land stood with Republican Hugh Leatherman in fighting that additional year of small business tax breaks. The Senate finally agreed on a plan to allow $20 million for FY2012-13. $20 million more FY2013-14 and $20 million more FY2014-15–totalling the $60 million the House asked for when fully phased in.
After two weeks and at times what appeared to be civility through gritted teeth, the panel praised each others’ work.
“Senator Leatherman, I learned alot,” said Ott, after an agreement was reached in his first conference committee experience. “I don’t believe anybody lost their temper and said any words of anger, though we had some disagreements…I think this budget serves the state of South Carolina very well. It certainly meets the needs of teachers, state employees, local government–they can now stary forming their budgets and get ready for a new year.”
“That’s what you call baptism by fire,” laughed Leatherman.
Sen. Land says some of the high points include every county and every city is funded at $30 million, Charleston Harbor dredging is fully funded at $300 million and state employees get a three percent pay raise.
The House and Senate budget chairmen, Sen. Hugh Leatherman and Rep. Brian White, will meet first thing Wednesday morning and comb through the plan, line-by-line. The $6.7 million state government spending plan would go into effect starting July 1.