Time ticking as South Carolina lawmakers await McMaster budget vetoes

South Carolina lawmakers will assemble Monday to review any vetoes included in Gov. Henry McMaster’s approval of the $31 billion Fiscal Year 2022 budget they sent to his desk yesterday.

McMaster has until Saturday night to approve the 566-page spending plan, which includes $10.7 billion in state general revenue appropriations. Lawmakers have until Wednesday to restore any expenditures red-lined by the governor via override votes.

With more than 130 sections and subsections, and thousands of individual line-item expenditures, McMaster is likely to issue some vetoes, but not be heavy-handed in nixing appropriations approved by the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Re-elected to a second term in November, the Republican governor has been prudent in exercising his veto pen, trimming only 28 line items in the FY20 budget, which was essentially “cut-and-pasted” to serve as the state’s spending plan this fiscal year too.

The House formally approved the budget, House Bill 4100, in a 107-4 vote Monday before the Senate sent it to McMaster in a 39-5 tally.

The overall $31 billion FY22 budget is nearly $1.8 billion more than this year’s budget, which was a pandemic-frozen extension of the previous year’s $28.4 billion spending plan that included $8.9 billion in state general revenue appropriations.

The largest budget item is health care, which tallies $22.9 billion in spending – including carryover surplus and multi-year allocations from previous years – including $6.5 million in state money.

The budget’s education spending spans 25 sections and outlines $5.7 billion in spending, including $3.48 billion in state general revenue appropriations, and includes raises for most of the state’s nearly 80,000 employees, including teachers, and boosts South Carolina’s “rainy day” reserve fund by $600 million.

What the budget does not include is about $2.5 billion in unspent federal money from the nearly $9 billion in Congressional COVID-19 relief packages that South Carolina has received over the years.

How to spend that one-time federal plug of money will be decided by lawmakers during a “Budget 2.0” special session sometime after July 1.

A state panel has recommended lawmakers hire the same Virginia-based management firm, Guidehouse, that assisted in administrating $2.7 billion in federal CARES Act money South Carolina received last year to coordinate allocations approved during the special session.

What is included in the budget is about $200 million in 250 “earmarks,” or local project and nonprofit funding requests, submitted by lawmakers and approved by lawmakers.

The South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) on April 8 updated its revenues collections and forecast that revealed the state has collected $385.8 million in “new” recurring money, up from $182.8 million it forecast in November.

In addition, the BEA projected the state was sitting on a $646 million unspent “surplus” in the current fiscal year, meaning there about $1.3 billion in “one-time” money available for appropriation.

The additional $385.8 million in recurring revenues and $1.3 billion in non-recurring money provided about $1.8 billion more to spend than anticipated in November.

The budget allocates $8.3 million of that “surplus” funding to the state’s Department of Commerce for winemaker giant Gallo to construct a $400 million distribution/bottling plant in Fort Lawn.

Other highlights of the budget on McMaster’s desk:

  • $500 million for university/college building repair and maintenance. The budget also includes $40 million to ensure tuitions are not raised.
  • $200 million to expand the Port of Charleston’s railroad and barge cargo capacity.
  • $100 million for new schools in rural, low tax base areas.
  • $72 million to give each of the state’s 55,000 K-12 teachers a $1,000 raise.
  • $60 million for a 2.5% raise for all other state workers, approximately 25,000, including raises and bonuses for state law enforcement agencies.
  • $35 million to ensure every public school in the state has a police officer ($29 million) and a nurse ($6 million) on campus.
  • $34 million to expand full-day pre-kindergarten for low-income 4-year-olds.

This article was originally posted on Time ticking as South Carolina lawmakers await McMaster budget vetoes

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