COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The state's taxpayer-funded checkbook is one step closer to being set, after lawmakers logged late hours last night, compromising on how to spend about $8 billion.
A six-person panel debated the budget for about two-and-a-half weeks before signing an agreement on the budget bills just after 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Out of a roughly $8 billion budget, a large portion of it is set to go to public education, K-12 schools and on higher education, but also on school buses. Still, some are frustrated over where the money is not set to go.
Director of the SC State Employees Association Carlton Washington says there's disappointment there will be no pay raise for public workers or bonuses.
Washington is considered a mouthpiece for state employees, advocating for them before lawmakers. He says those public workers at agencies like the Department of Social Services, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Environmental Control - the groups who perform important duties are now some of the disappointed employees.
He had hoped the one-time $500 bonus for those who make below $50,000 per year would make it through the panel of six lawmakers to compromise on the state budget. But it's now off the table.
One of the senators on the panel to decide that, Nikki Setzler, says the bonus would have only been possible if there were some extra funds coming in.
"The House would not agree to that, because those funds are not expected to come in, and it was in an effort not to mislead those employees, that they may be getting a bonus when it's not anticipated that the funds would come in," Sen. Nikki Setzler (D- Lexington) said.
"It is absolutely frustrating for employees, and it puts them in a difficult position. Not only from that perspective, but most state employees have two jobs. And of course, they have families like everyone else does, and it's difficult for them to make ends meet," Washington said.
State employees will also pay more for their retirement benefits, as part of the deal to fix the state's pension fund deficit. In the tentative budget now, there's about $150 million that would go to shore-up the pension system.
There would be funds to help cities, counties, and school districts pay the higher price to contribute to their workers' benefits.