By a 36-9 vote on Tuesday, the state Senate adopted a $7.5 billion compromise spending plan for the next fiscal year. If House members also sign off on the plan later this week, as is expected, the budget would go to Gov. Nikki Haley.
Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said the plan addresses K-12 schools and road repair funding. “This being not only a roads bill, but an education bill as well,” Leatherman said on the floor of the Senate Tuesday. The measure includes $200 million that will be used to borrow $2 billion for road construction projects.
But, while the money is set aside in the budget, legislators still need to pass an enacting law later this week for it to take effect. The House and Senate have passed separate, similar bills so far but have not yet reached a compromise.
The compromise also divides an additional $50 million to counties for road projects. It also sets aside nearly $50 million to cover the cost of repairs made to roads following October’s unprecedented flooding.
Leatherman acknowledged that it does not magically fix all the problems with road funding, but starts to address the problem. “It will start to fix our roads. Let me say again, this will not fix our roads, it’s a start, it’s a shot in the arm,” he said.
The budget includes a 3.25 percent raise for state employees, the largest cost-of-living increase for public workers since 2005. It also includes $11 million more for local governments than last year. It does remove a House plan that eliminated $12 million that would have finished reimbursing counties’ clean-up expenses from the 2014 ice storm.