COLUMBIA, S.C. — The group of state lawmakers and staff members responsible for finalizing the state budget has come to a compromise on the spending plan.
House and Senate leaders agreed to meet halfway on several measures to wrap up the tedious process.
South Carolina’s state budget for the upcoming fiscal year is the largest ever at nearly $14 billion. On Friday, the budget conference committee finished working on it.
“Today, everybody is a winner; the Senate, the House, the state agencies, and employees, most importantly the people of South Carolina,” Senator Harvey Peeler, who is co-chair of the budget conference committee, said in his closing remarks Friday.
One of the wins for the group was compromising on how to cut income taxes for South Carolinians. Budget staff member Quentin Hawkins explained to the group, “we’ve decided to go with the House version of the recurring cut, Mr. Chairman, that takes it on year one to 6.5%. That does apply to the current tax year that we’re in right now, so when you file your taxes next year that will be the rate.”
The compromise cuts the top income tax rate to 6.5%, then over 5 years it’ll go down to 6%. That means many taxpayers will be dishing out less money to the state in their paychecks.
"This billion-dollar tax refund is going to be huge for our citizens," Senate President Thomas Alexander said.
The group agreed to give a rebate of up to $800 to taxpayers by the end of 2022.
While taxpayers are likely getting more money in their pockets, so will some teachers. The budget plan raises the minimum salary from $36,000 to $40,000. So, any teacher making under $40,000 could soon see a pay raise.
“We increased teacher supply checks, bus driver salaries, money to disadvantaged schools for capital funding, $100 million for instruction materials and $12 million for school buses, that is transformational for education,” House Speaker Murrell Smith said when listing accomplishments.
State employees and many law enforcement officers could also see raises if this plan is signed into law. Before that happens, the full House and Senate must give one more vote of approval on June 15.
Then, the budget will be sent to the governor. Once the budget reaches the governor’s desk, he could either sign off on it or veto specific items in the plan.