(The Center Square) – South Carolina senators will return to Columbia after a long Easter weekend on Tuesday to renew state budget deliberations.
Awaiting senators is the House’s proposed budget, outlined in House Bill 4100, which was adopted last week in the House with a 112-6 vote.
The House’s proposed $30 billon state budget includes $9.8 billion in state general fund spending. At this stage of a legislative session, any spending plan is tentative, but this year, it is even more so.
Budget writers conservatively based their plan on outdated revenue forecasts certain to be below actual collections and did not appropriate $2.1 billion in federal assistance South Carolina will receive through the recently adopted American Rescue Plan.
In other words, the plan is incomplete and calls for lawmakers to return in late May or June for supplemental budget hearings to allocate the federal assistance
“There will be a budget 2.0,” Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, said after the House transferred HB 4100 to the Senate Finance Committee.
As a result, some items included in Gov. Henry McMaster’s $30.1 billion fiscal year 2022 budget request are not funded in the tentative plan.
Both plans set aside $500 million for the state’s reserve fund and tab $35 million to resume step salary increases for teachers that were suspended last year because of the pandemic. The Senate already has approved a measure to reinstate the small annual step raises.
Among items in McMaster’s budget proposal not included in the House plan are pay raises for state employees and $123 million in small business grants.
A breakdown of some HB 4100 components:
• Education: The Department of Education’s $3.3 billion base share of state money includes an additional $48 million in instructional materials, $24.5 million for public charter school growth and $10 million to expand full-day, 4-year-old public kindergarten.
HB 4100 includes $50 million to increase the base student cost to $2,500 per student and a like amount for one-time pay increases to eligible teachers.
• Higher education: Colleges and universities would get $171 million in new money, which would go to deferred maintenance.
The state’s technical college system would get $10 million for maintenance and capital needs, as well as $33 million for workforce scholarships. Lawmakers also steered $318 million to fund scholarships, $51 million from the lottery for tuition and $80 million to pay for tuition grants.
• Economic development: HB 4100 calls for an additional $3.7 million in the state’s deal-closing fund to attract more business and $20 million to promote tourism.
• Miscellaneous: $27 million toward two nursing homes for veterans; $50 million to set up a state disaster relief fund; $30 million to improve broadband internet, a need felt more severely during the COVID-19 pandemic; $5.5 million to put a nurse in every school; and $21 million to help the tourism industry recover from the pandemic.
HB 4100 will be vetted by Senate Finance subcommittees through April 8, when, coincidently, updated revenue projections from Revenue & Fiscal Affairs economists could alter the budget scenario are expected.
HB 4100 is scheduled to go before the full Senate Finance Committee beginning April 13, and is tabbed for full chamber debates April 26 through April 29.
Conferencing between the Senate and the House begins May 4. The budget, which goes into effect July 1, must be delivered to McMaster by May 13.