Friday, Aug. 28, 2020
Gov. Henry McMaster announced that the state of South Carolina submitted its grant application for FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program.
The Board of Economic Advisors met in preparation for next week’s final budget estimate before the special session. Several House ad hoc committees met to discuss criminal justice reform.
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The S.C. Comptroller’s Office closed the books Thursday on the 2019 fiscal year, which ended June 30 and announced a surplus of $350 million. General Fund revenues grew by 8.6% over the previous year’s revenues, bringing in $8.8 billion in 2019. After funding an additional $344 million in “supplemental spending” plus $61 million for $50 tax rebates, South Carolina ended the fiscal year with $350 million of remaining revenue surplus.
S.C. Comptroller Richard Eckstrom urged lawmakers to devote some of the surplus to paying down the unfunded liability facing the state Retirement System, noting its estimated $24 billion shortfall. The General Assembly is expected to appropriate the surplus revenues when it returns Sept. 15.
“SC has $775 million budget surplus, despite COVID-19, that legislators could spend or set aside” (Post and Courier, Aug. 27): “This year has been like a roller coaster ride for state government,” said state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom. “The last four months of the year were pretty sorry months. That decline in revenue is very likely to continue.”
BOARD OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS
The State Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) met on Monday to receive information in preparation for their final budget estimate on Aug. 31. The Comptroller General has not yet finished closing out the books on FY19-20 but it was noted the expected surplus will be slightly higher than the previous projection.
Economists noted that although South Carolina’s economy is showing signs of growth and there are bright spots, there remains too much uncertainty due to the pandemic and advised the Board to move cautiously. After hearing presentations from DHEC, the Department of Commerce, the State Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism, the Board agreed to meet again on Monday to decide whether to keep the estimate as is or revise the estimate. Staff will continue working this week to develop assumptions. The BEA had previously reduced the new recurring General Fund estimate by $701 million.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board adopted a Resolution congratulating the state’s Chief Economist, Robert Martin, on his upcoming retirement. After 30 years with the BEA, Martin will leave his post after the Aug. 31 meeting.
Handouts from the meeting can be found here. The BEA is statutorily charged to provide the General Assembly with the official revenue estimate for lawmakers to draft the annual state budget.
HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS CARES ACT SUBCOMMITTEE
The House Ways and Means CARES Act Ad Hoc Committee held its first meeting on Wednesday. The committee was formed by House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) to assist the committee in determining how to allocate Phase II of the CARES Act funding.
The committee heard a presentation from the Executive Budget Office on the CARES Act funds and the reimbursement agreements executed to date. Of the $1.9 billion received, there remains an unallocated balance of $668 million, which must be authorized by the General Assembly.
The committee heard from Nanette S. Edwards, Executive Director of the SC Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), which oversees broadband regulation. She gave an update on hotspot procurement and distribution and progress to date on connecting students to broadband where possible. Fourteen entities applied for funding with a total of 82 projects. With hotspots and wired broadband, an additional 57,000 households have received service. The cost to date has been about $8 million.
The committee also received an update from S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Executive Director Dan Ellzey on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and projections of future claims. The committee will meet again next Wednesday.
Committee handouts can be found here.
Gov. Henry McMaster and S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Executive Director Dan Ellzey announced Wednesday that the state of South Carolina submitted its grant application for FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. The state is now waiting for federal approval of the grant application. The LWA grant was created by President Donald Trump in response to the expiration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. If the state’s application is approved, the South Carolina LWA would provide an additional $300 in benefits on top of a claimant’s weekly benefit amount. In South Carolina, the average weekly benefit is approximately $260.
“Gov. McMaster agrees to accept federal unemployment aid from Trump administration” (Post and Courier, Aug. 27): DEW director Dan Ellzey wrote a letter to the governor and state lawmakers that spelled out how plan could help South Carolina. The state could net $280 million for unemployed individuals over five weeks, and participation would cost South Carolina little.
To view all of the governor’s previous Executive Orders, click here.
For more information from SC DHEC on the virus, click here.
The DHEC Care Line is available to provide general information about COVID-19 by calling 1-855-472-3432 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., seven days per week.
Other helpful links:
The Emergency Management Division provides links to important information, including the SC Department on Aging, SC Childcare, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce, the Department of Revenue and the SC Department of Insurance.
South Carolina Department of Commerce for small business information and assistance.
For additional resources that may be beneficial to your organization’s recovery efforts, visit Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd’s COVID-19 Resources page.
HOUSE EQUITABLE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORM COMMITTEE
The Sentencing Reform Subcommittee of the House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee met on Tuesday. The committee was formed by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville) to address the urgent issues gripping our nation and state. The committee represents a bipartisan, diverse group of lawmakers, which aims to bring to the entire House substantial reforms to improve our state’s justice system and law enforcement policies.
The subcommittee is using H.3322 as a starting point for discussions. That bill represents several years of work on sentencing reform but never passed the House. After receiving testimony from solicitors, public defenders, victim’s advocates and others, the committee will continue working to improve the bill so that it might receive widespread support.
Later that day, the Law Enforcement Officer Training, Tactics, Standards, and Accountability Subcommittee met and heard a number of presentations from law enforcement agencies regarding current policies and practices. The committee discussed ways to enhance and improve policies.
On Wednesday, the Criminal Statutory Review Subcommittee met and took testimony on draft Hate Crimes legislation. Those speaking in favor of enacting a Hate Crime law included numerous civil rights organizations, public defenders and solicitors who presented language to amend the draft to address their original concerns. Many in the business community also expressed support, including the SC Metro Chamber Coalition, representing several of the larger local chambers of commerce. The Anti-Defamation League testified on the recently passed Hate Crimes law in Georgia and noted the effort was driven by the business community and led by IBM, UPS and Coca-Cola. With the passage of the Georgia law in June, only three states (Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming) do not have such a law on the books. To view the video archive of the meetings, click here.
BUDGET – CONTINUING RESOLUTION
Continuing Resolution H.3411 is in effect and provides for the continued and uninterrupted operation of state government into the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2020. State government agencies are operating in FY21 with the same funding as they received in FY20. The General Assembly will return to Columbia on Sept. 15 to adopt a state budget for the remainder of FY20-21.
SINE DIE RESOLUTION
The General Assembly adopted a Sine Die Resolution, S.1194, which allows them to continue past the mandatory May 14 Sine Die deadline to complete unfinished business.
Each House will stand adjourned to meet at the call of the President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The resolution further authorizes the General Assembly to meet again in statewide session on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at noon and continue in statewide session until Sept. 24 for the consideration of specific matters, including the annual General Appropriations Act.
Unless the session is otherwise adjourned Sine Die at an earlier date, the 2020 session of the General Assembly shall stand adjourned Sine Die not later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.
The State Board of Economic Advisors will meet Monday afternoon.
Thank you for following SCACPA’s ‘The View from the Dome’ for State House Developments on Tax Issues Through SC’s 2020 Legislative Session. Here is a review of our weekly updates.