State Lawmakers: Budget bill compromise in sight

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Before the end of the week, state lawmakers expect to have an approved budget bill for the upcoming fiscal year.

While the regular session ended back on June 6th, lawmakers passed a bill to extend the session and are set to reconvene today.

The House and Senate had major differences on how to spend the $6.6 billion they're responsible for, specifically when it comes to education funding, pay raises for state employees and state infrastructure.

As of Monday afternoon, lawmakers were closer to reaching an agreement that would bond $50 million for state roads and highways and ultimately allow them to borrow more than half a billion dollars for infrastructure improvement projects over time.

"I think the House will go along with our proposal on roads," said Senator Joel Lourie (D- District 22).  "That's a big issue in South Carolina in terms of economic development, in terms of quality of life and last but probably first, public safety. We've got this huge infrastructure crisis facing us, and it's incumbent on us to look at this on an annual basis."

The proposal is a sub-section of the overall budget bill and Senate President John Courson says it must pass the House and Senate by a two-thirds vote.

The extended session will last until Thursday at 5pm, and lawmakers say they're hoping to send a final budget bill to the governor before then.

"If one looks at government overall, education and protecting our citizens are the two key responsibilities of state government," said Senate President John Courson (R-District 20). "We're also increasing funding for the Highway Patrol, as well as, for SLED (State Law Enforcement Division)."

"The challenge is we've got to have our budget done, and the bill sent to the governor… let her approve or veto those items she wants to approve or veto, and come back in session to either sustain or override those vetoes…all of that has to be done by July 1st," said Sen. Lourie.

While lawmakers are back in session, they can only discuss legislation that already made it to conference committee before they recessed on June 6th. Senator Courson says there are 9 bills that meet that criteria, including the Department of Administration legislation.

That bill would restructure government and put more power in the hands of the governor. Sen. Courson says while that's something he would like to see passed now, further discussion may have to wait until January.