Columbia, SC (WLTX) - On Tuesday, Lawmakers were back at the State House for a special session as they try to iron out the big issues facing South Carolina--among them the budget, retirement reform and government restructuring.
The budget is approximately $6.7 billion and lawmakers are having a tough time agreeing on where roughly $60 million should go. It's not political parties clashing on ideas; rather, it's the chambers.
"This is not a partisan thing," said Senator Darrell Jackson, a Democrat from Richland County. "This is more a philosophical difference between the Senate and the House."
"The House feels very strongly that we should have more tax cuts for businesses," he adds. "The Senate feels very strongly that we should invest in other things; state employees' pay raises, they haven't had one in 4 years. The house proposes 2 percent we propose 3 percent."
In regards to Tuesday's session, House Speaker Bobby Harrell said, "Already we have agreed to address some very important issues - agreeing to fund core government services, fully funding the deepening of our Port's Harbor, directing more money to the classroom, providing teachers and law enforcement officers pay raises all while coming in well below proposed spending caps. With South Carolina's unemployment rate climbing back over 9 percent, it is not too much to ask that we devote some of this new revenue to tax relief so that our state's businesses can hire more employees."
"We all are concerned about the loss of the middle ground," said Jackson. "It seems as if people are so polarized and no one is willing to come together. Well, I am really proud of the Senate because we did and we voted on the budget with I think only one or two objections on it. That's important to me and I think that's important to our state."
The new fiscal year starts July 1st and lawmakers will have to pass the budget by then.
"It's really not an option if we don't decide on the budget," said Republican Representative Joan Brady of Richland County. "Obviously we will have to come up with some solution, otherwise we will continue to have special sessions. We don't want government to close down on June 30th."
The special session is not free to South Carolinians as this week's three day special session cost taxpayers about $71,000.
In the instance that the General Assembly can't compromise, a continuing resolution would likely go into place. That would allow the government to continue to function based on the past years budget.
Lawmakers are hoping to get an approved budget to Governor Nikki Haley by Thursday so she can either approve or veto the legislation. Then lawmakers would return to session next Tuesday for final approval.
"It's the art of compromise up here," Brady said, "and I think people don't always realize up here that you don't always get what you want but in the end you get something that you hope is going to be of benefit to the taxpayers of South Carolina."
"I think both sides are playing chicken as to who's going to blink first," said Representative Leon Howard, a Democrat from Richland County, "and somebody has to blink. Or they have to blink at the same time."