Columbia, SC - The South Carolina Senate has approved a pay raise of $12,000 a year for state senators and House members. The money is actually for in-district expenses like running their local offices and traveling within their districts. They already get $12,000 a year for in-district expenses, which is considered salary and taxed, and this raise would double that.
The vote was 25 to 20.
Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, voted against the raise. He says lawmakers do need more money to cover their expenses, but his problem was with the timing of this raise.
"The fact that we're not funding local governments at a level, we're not funding higher ed at a level; public education, you just name it. We're still digging ourselves out of the hole we've been in over the last 4 or 5 years. And Lord knows the roads are in pretty despicable shape. So you add all that together, this isn't the time to be addressing it," he says.
But Sen. Glenn Reese, D-Spartanburg, who voted for the raise, says projections are that lawmakers should get an additional $3,000 a month to cover their in-district costs, so a $1,000 a month increase is pretty modest.
With 170 members of the House and Senate, the raise would cost taxpayers $2,040,000 a year. According to the SCDOT, $2 million would build one lane mile of a new road.
Sen. Reese says, "This amount of money for the pay wouldn't do but just a handful of potholes, but it makes a huge difference with 170 people down here who are putting their family and their business on the backburner and really sacrificing a whole lot to be here."
State lawmakers are paid $10,400 a year salary, $12,000 a year for in-district expenses, and they get mileage and per diem when they travel to Columbia.
The raise is not definite yet.
The House would also have to approve it and then so would Gov. Nikki Haley. Sen. Martin says he's certain she would veto the pay raise, and he doesn't think the votes would be there to override her veto.