Members of the House and Senate approved an $8 billion general fund budget Thursday, sending it to Gov. Henry McMaster.
Senate Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said it was a tough process this year. “Budget conference is not perfect, but we fought very hard for the Senate position and prevailed on many of the Senate positions.”
State Sen. Richard Cash, R-Anderson, tried to block the budget because it included family planning funds for Planned Parenthood, although that money could not be spent towards abortions. Cash and others were unsuccessful in their attempt to get lawmakers back to the negotiating table.
Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant said he would not ratify the budget because of the Planned Parenthood funds. Instead, the duty falls to Leatherman.
The budget ultimately passed the Senate by a 30-9 vote. It includes a one percent pay raise for teachers and sets a new minimum $32,000 annual salary for new full-time teachers. While most school districts already pay above that minimum, roughly 20 districts fell below it.
It also included money to fund a new forensics laboratory at the State Law Enforcement Division’s headquarters in Columbia. The agency says its current lab is too small and inadequate for modern testing needs.
State Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Dorchester, said the spending plan is not ideal to everybody. “There are a lot of good things in the budget. There are a lot of things I don’t like about the budget,” he told his colleagues. “As always, there are a lot of things that are not in the budget or did not make it in the budget that if I was king of the world I would have included in that budget.”
Gov. Henry McMaster will now consider the budget and veto any sections he does not like. The governor has already threatened to veto the Planned Parenthood money. The state’s fiscal year begins July 1.