A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government
The state Inspector General’s Office says it is looking into the finances of South Carolina State University, one week after the school notified lawmakers that it expects to run a $4.4 million deficit this current school year.
WIS-TV first reported the news Wednesday, saying that Inspector General Patrick Maley had confirmed the investigation, but would not give any specifics into what his office is investigating. Maley did say he met with S.C. State University board of trustees chair William Small on Tuesday.
In a letter to the director of the State Budget Office last week, S.C. State president Thomas Elzey projected a deficit of $4.4 million by the end of the fiscal year. He said the university is also more than $13 million short of cash to pay its bills. Elzey said declining enrollment is partly to blame, along with financial problems inherited from the previous administration.
Elzey presented several severe cost-cutting measures for the board to consider, including eliminating more positions and office equipment for staff. The president said the school is also currently under a hiring freeze.
State budget officials told the school it has two weeks to finalize its budget.
Lawmakers vote to keep state’s top judge in place
The General Assembly voted to let current Chief Justice Jean Toal lead South Carolina’s highest court for another two years. Legislators voted 95-74 in favor of Toal over challenger Associate Justice Costa Pleicones on Wednesday. Toal has led the state Supreme Court since 2000. She will reach the mandatory retirement age of 72 at the end of 2015. Besides leading the Supreme Court, the chief justice also oversees all state circuit and appeals courts in South Carolina.
Meanwhile Pleicones indicated that he will run again. He will turn 72 in 2016.
DMV cracking down on bounced checks
South Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles says it is changing the way it deals with drivers and other residents who write bad checks at its branch offices. Starting this week, the DMV is no longer offering any services for customers who have a check that bounces. The suspension will last until the amount is paid back in full with an additional $30 fee — even if the customer pays for a different service with cash.
If their check bounces, customers will not be able to renew their driver license or vehicle registration, or replace a lost or stolen driver license or license plate, among other services. Agency director Kevin Shwedo said the agency has received more than $2 million worth of bad checks.
Lawmakers consider expanding Medicaid to cover dental care
South Carolina’s Medicaid director asked legislators Wednesday to support providing dental care to adults, the Associated Press reports. Currently, Medicaid in South Carolina covers only emergency tooth extractions for adults. Children covered through Medicaid already receive full dental services.
Department of Health and Human Services director Tony Keck made the request during a House budget hearing on Wednesday. Keck estimated that up to 40 percent of the state’s Medicaid-eligible adults would use preventive dental services, costing the state roughly $10.3 million.
Senate committee votes to end solar tax credits
The Senate Finance Committee voted this week to phase out a tax credit for homeowners using solar energy after 2017, The State newspaper reports. The language was included in a bill that is intended to help businesses that want to use sun panels. Under current South Carolina law, homeowners can claim a 25 percent tax credit off the cost of installing solar panels. The proposal would keep similar tax credits for businesses intact until 2017.
Supporters of the phase-out note that the federal government is also ending the incentives program, but opponents worry it could set back South Carolina’s fledgling solar market. While the bill cleared the Finance Committee, one Republican’s objection could keep it from coming up for debate on the Senate floor.