The State Senate is now considering the House version of the state spending plan for the coming year. Senate leaders expect debate – a sign of a budget with more wiggle room.
That, in turn, is a sign of economic recovery.
When Senate budget chief Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, took the floor for his annual budget kickoff speech, he reminded fellow lawmakers that state revenue is only now back at pre-recession levels. The the $6.6 billion plan for 2014-15 is about the same as the level of year 2006-07.
“Economists suggested that an economic recovery would take five years, we kept hearing that,” Leatherman remembered. “Little did we realize at the time that five years was optimistic when it comes to our general fund revenues.”
Since lawmakers are less concerned with cuts and more with prioritization this year. There is already tension over less funding for local governments in order to add education programs. This year, Gov. Nikki Haley has a new education spending plan in her budget request.
Leatherman urged his colleagues to invest (read spend) more on education this year.
“We saw companies come in here, looking for cheap labor, cheap land, cheap utility costs, lower taxes and things like that. Are these important, yes, they are,” Leatherman said Tuesday. “Capital investment in today’s hyper-connected global economy follows brainpower. Without that brainpower in our state, we are not going to continue to advance.”