View from the Dome

June 3, 2017

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After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, a Conference Committee working on the state budget reached an agreement this past Wednesday evening. The General Assembly will return to Columbia next week to adopt the state budget Conference Report.

BUDGET

A Conference Committee working to resolve differences on the state's top legislative priority, the FY 2017-18 state budget (H. 3720) and the Capital Reserve Fund (H. 3721), finally reached an agreement late Wednesday evening after weeks of the behind-the-scenes negotiations. A Joint Resolution S. 692 (Senator Leatherman), allowing the General Assembly to continue past the mandatory May 11 Sine Die deadline, was recently adopted as the state budget had not yet been finalized. Sticking points included how the General Assembly would reimburse local governments for the employer increase to the state retirement system, and funding levels for both K-12 and higher education. Senate budget conferees were Senators Hugh Leatherman, Nikki Setzler and Sean Bennett. House conferees were Representatives Brian White, Mike Pitts and Leon Stavrinakis. Much of the new revenue was earmarked to address the mounting deficit in the state retirement system, provide matching funds for FEMA assistance from damages from Hurricane Matthew, and statutory obligations for the Medicaid program and base student cost allocations in K-12. On the higher education front, the committee agreed to provide an increase to the base funding for South Carolina's 33 public colleges and universities, including the state's 16 technical colleges. The committee also agreed to remove some responsibility from the Commission on Higher Education from what many colleges complained was redundant oversight for capital improvements. After July 1, the colleges' plans will be submitted through the Department of Administration directly to the Joint Bond Review Committee, made up of state legislators, and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, a five-member board including two legislators, the governor, state treasurer and state comptroller general. The $7.9 billion general fund budget did not include a pay increase for state employees, but did fully fund the increase in their healthcare costs. The total state budget, including the $7.9 general fund revenue, other funds (fines, fees, etc.) and federal funds, now totals nearly $27 billion. Included in the budget plan:

$150 million to local governments to offset increase in retirement system contributions;

$68 million for FEMA matching funds from Hurricane Matthew;

$60 million for base student cost increase in K-12;

$45 million increase to the Medicaid maintenance of effort;

$12 million for higher education base funding increase; and

$10 million to the local government fund.

For the Technical Colleges:

$3.7 million in recurring base funding;

$47 million for Lottery Tuition Assistance;

$9.6 million for ReadySC;

$8 million for workforce scholarships/grants;

$3 million for Allied Health; and

$3.3 million for technology.

The General Assembly will return to Columbia next week to adopt the state budget Conference Report. The bills will then be sent to the governor where he has five days to exercise his line item veto authority. If necessary, the legislature will return one final time this summer to address the governor's budget vetoes.

All budget documents can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

PENDING LEGISLATION

More than sixty bills received third and final reading during the last week of the legislative session. That represents nearly half of all bills passed during the five-month legislative session. Click here to view all bills ratified this session.

SPECIAL ELECTIONS

Two Special Elections were held this past Tuesday to fill vacated seats in the South Carolina General Assembly. Republican Richard Cash won the Senate District 3 special election despite a last-minute, write-in effort waged on behalf of former Pendleton Mayor Carol Burdette, who lost to Cash in the Republican primary. The South Carolina Democratic Party was encouraging voters to support the write-in effort. Cash, a Powdersville businessman, was the only candidate on the ballot as no Democrat filed to run for the seat. Cash received 82 percent of the votes cast to fill the Senate seat vacated when Senator Kevin Bryant ascended to become Lieutenant Governor. The seat covers northern Anderson County.

Republican Ronnie Young won the Special Election for the House District 84 seat easily defeating Democrat Jennifer Larsey. Young will replace Chris Corley, who resigned from the seat in January after he was arrested on domestic violence and weapons charges following a domestic incident in December. Young is currently serving as Chairman of the Aiken County Council and has served on council for the past twenty years.

COMING UP NEXT WEEK

The General Assembly will return next Tuesday to adopt the budget conference report and any outstanding conference reports from other legislation.

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