FILE - Nikki Setzler

South Carolina state Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington

(The Center Square) – The South Carolina Senate has passed a $10.2 billion state budget that provides small raises for teachers, COVID-19 hazard pay for state employees and a one-time stipend for poll workers serving during the pandemic.

The budget now awaits action in the House.

Since the new fiscal year began July 1, the state has been operating under a continuing resolution that extended spending levels from the previous year. If the House does not take up the budget bill, the state will continue to operate under fiscal year 2019-2020 spending levels.

Gov. Henry McMaster has asked the South Carolina Legislature to keep the state at pre-pandemic spending levels and not to appropriate any new spending this year.

The budget approved by the Senate on Tuesday, 40-3, includes one-time budget allocations of $500 million for the agency mid-year reserve fund to offset forecast agency cuts and $70 million in reserve for ongoing COVID-19 response reserve account.

The Senate approved $50 million for safety and security updates for the Department of Corrections, $34 million for the Department of Education for public charter schools and $6 million for more school nurses. The budget also reinstates salary step raises for public school teachers that were previously eliminated through state budget cuts.

“Our teachers have been working incredibly hard under unprecedented circumstances, and I’m glad that this budget includes the reinstatement of salary step increases for our educators,” Senate Democratic Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said.

Also included in the plan is $4.1 million for one-time stipends of $175 for poll workers working during the pandemic and hazard pay for state employees earning $50,000 or less.

The Senate also approved a spending plan Tuesday for the remaining $668 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, which must be used before a Dec. 31 deadline. The plan includes $93 million for statewide COVID-19 testing, $420 million for the unemployment insurance fund and $115 million for local governments and higher education.

Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square. Her writing has appeared in the Detroit News, The Hill, and publications of The Heartland Institute.