Weekly Legislative Update: Apr 17 – Apr 18, 2019

What they did:

This week the House was on spring break, and the Senate debated the $29.6 billion budget adopted by the Senate Finance Committee. The Senate budget is largely similar to the House budget, but spends $243 million more. A few key elements of the Senate Finance spending plan include:

  • $41.4 million for a state employee pay raise, plus an additional $20 million (from excess debt service funds) for employee bonuses
  • $159 million for teacher pay raises
  • Up to $61.4 million of lottery tax money for taxpayer rebates ($50/taxpayer who filed an income tax return and had a tax liability of at least $50 after credits)
  • $25 million for grants to farmers who lost crops due to flooding
  • $50 million of excess debt service funds for the “Rural School District and Economic Development Closing Fund”
  • $65 million of excess debt service funds for “school district capital improvements”

We will provide a more thorough overview after the Senate’s amended budget is posted online.

During the two-day debate, Senators removed a proviso that instructed the Department of Administration to sell Santee Cooper, and placed S.678 (a similar bill) on special order status, ensuring the legislation will be debated in the weeks to come.

 

What they said:

While debating a budget proviso amendment that would redirect the taxpayer rebate funds to the state pension, Sen. Greg Hembree said:

“If we do not meet our obligations under the retirement fund, they’ll be met – but they’re going to be met by the taxpayers. It’s going to be a tax increase.”

There is a real danger that the $81.9 billion unfunded pension liability could result in a future tax increase – if the deficit doesn’t end up contributing to a financial domino effect causing a default on debt payments. That would result in the automatic imposition of a statewide property tax on all taxable property.

However, it must be noted that the pension deficit came up during discussion of a taxpayer rebate – not during discussion and/or voting on spending for a Greenville Cultural and Arts Center, economic development groups, and a “Be Pro Be Proud” program (a tractor trailer fitted up with workforce industry equipment to tour the state and visit schools). Nor was the pension deficit mentioned when Sen. Hembree brought an amendment allocating nearly $1 million on a “SC Workforce Development Artificial Intelligence Pilot Program.”

 

What they filed:

Aside from resolutions, only one bill was filed this week – S.770, which would require licensing for commercial feed manufacturers.

To view new bills from previous weeks, click here.

Previous weekly updates:

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