COLUMBIA, S.C. — After years of rapid growth in tax collections, South Carolina lawmakers want to share the windfall with nearly every state employee.
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved a $13 billion budget for the next fiscal year that would provide raises for nearly everyone.
State employees would get a $2,500 bump in their base pay if they make less than $50,000 and a 5% raise if they make more than $50,000, according to the 2023-24 budget sent to the Senate floor for consideration last month.
Some law enforcement positions — like state troopers, state agents, and officers and nurses in prisons — could be in line for even bigger pay bumps.
Many teachers, whose salaries are outside the regular state employee system, would also get a raise. The plan would increase the minimum salary at every position and experience level by $2,500. The spending proposal additionally would send $261 million more in classroom aid to local school districts, which could use that money to give raises if they are already above the minimums set by the state.
The state also is covering any increases in health insurance premiums for its workers.
“Icing on the cake,” Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Harvey Peeler said.
The Senate budget expands on the spending plan passed last month by the House, which provided $2,500 raises for state employees making up to $83,000 while the rest get a 3% raise.
Peeler and others praised the House plan for its innovative raise plan for state employees.
“That's quite a statement we are making to state employees,” Democratic state Sen. Darrell Jackson said.
The budget heading to the Senate floor also spends $95 million to again freeze in-state tuition at colleges and universities.
It also spends $540 million in unspent funds from previous budgets and other one-time sources for higher education projects, like $75 million to start the first veterinary medicine school in South Carolina at Clemson University and $54 million to replace the nearly century-old Turner Hall at South Carolina State University.
There is $71 million to help the Department of Juvenile Justice upgrade security, build and replace old buildings and hire more workers.
The Senate Finance Committee budget also spends $120 million for a fund to help rural districts build new schools.
The spending plan also agrees to set aside more than $1 billion to help Volkswagen-backed Scout Motors build a new plant for electric SUVs near Columbia.
One item taken out of the House budget was $200 million to fix bridges.