By Robert Kittle
South Carolina took in more money in the last fiscal year than budget analysts expected, so the state has a $68 million surplus. Where will it go? Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, says, "Just like any other revenue coming in, the General Assembly-- the House and Senate--decides we want it to go here, go there." They go back into session in January.
Gov. Nikki Haley says, "We have always said that additional money should either go to paying down debt, refunding the taxpayers, or infrastructure, which is what we started to do last year. Let's keep in mind, though, $68 million doesn't mean that we need to have a party. The legislature used a lot of one-time money last year for recurring items."
Having a surplus means the state also took in enough to pay for all of the items on the so-called "wish list" that lawmakers pass every year. It's a supplemental budget that lawmakers pass to spell out how the state will spend money that's set aside in "rainy day" reserve funds, if that money is not needed for something unexpected like hurricane recovery.
Local governments will get $30 million from that pot of money.
Some will also go to schools, including almost $23 million for new textbooks, $6.4 million for fuel and bus parts, and $4.1 million to phase in an expansion of 4-year-old kindergarten in school districts with 75%-plus poverty. The Department of Education will also get $10.5 million for new school buses.
The reserve funds will also pay for the ID theft protection that the state is providing after last year's hacking incident at the state Department of Revenue. An international hacker stole the personal information of more than 6 million taxpayers and businesses.
There's also additional money for computer security upgrades.