A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
Members of the South Carolina House and Senate hope to quickly override Gov. Henry McMaster’s vetoes of a road funding measure when they return to session on Wednesday.
McMaster followed through on his threat to veto a proposed gas tax increase, sending the proposed road funding deal back to the House and Senate just hours after it was sent to his desk Tuesday. In a video statement posted to Twitter, McMaster claimed legislators could have found the $637 million in new money by other means.
Legislators are expected to override the veto. Both the House and Senate already passed the bill this week by the required two-thirds majority, including a 99-20 vote in the House earlier Tuesday. Leaders disputed the idea that existing funds would have been enough to cover a massive backlog in road needs.
The measure would raise the state’s gas by two cents per gallon each year for the next six years. It would also lift the current sales tax cap from $300 to $500 and create a new biannual fee for owners of hybrid or electric vehicles and a $250 fee for out-of-state residents who seek to register their vehicle in the state for the first time. Budget analysts estimate it will raise an additional $637 million per-year once it is fully phased in after 2023. It also creates new tax credits for South Carolina residents to claw back what they spent in new tax money.
— During the first meeting of the Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee on Tuesday, House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, charged members to find a way to end the deadly heroin and prescription drug overdose epidemic. The committee heard presentations on the efforts of several state departments demonstrating the abuse of prescription drugs is more dangerous in South Carolina than other better-known drugs across the state.
— A Richland County state senator wants to hold hearings into tuition breaks South Carolina public colleges use to recruit more students from other states. State Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, on Tuesday asked the acting Senate Education Committee chairman to hold hearings to investigate the practice. The State newspaper reports this comes after it reported on the University of South Carolina’s heavy use of discounted tuition to recruit students from outside the Palmetto State. The school offered $84 million in tuition discounts last year, according to the newspaper.
— The same joint panel of state representatives and senators which came up with the pension repair law earlier this year resumed their meetings again Tuesday. The Joint Committee on Pension System Review is taking the next step for its long-term plan to rebuild the state’s pension fund after the emergency fix signed by Gov. McMaster last month. The group will eventually recommend whether or the retirement system itself needs to change to a defined contribution plan, such as a 401 (k). It will also examine how the state is currently investing its pension fund and whether changes need to be made there, as well.
— While the legislature will be in session on Wednesday, state employees will be off for Confederate Memorial Day. South Carolina is one of a half-dozen southern states which recognizes the date as an official state holiday to honor the date Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died after being shot and wounded by friendly fire in 1863. However, the state’s tourism-oriented agencies and museums will remain open.