Panel of House members okay budget plan, set for debate on House floor in March

Panel of House members okay budget plan, set for debate on House floor in March

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday afternoon, the S.C. House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to send their $10 billion budget proposal to the House floor.

"It's rewarding to me to be able to collaborate from the inception of this," said Representative Murrell Smith (R-Sumter), who is the chairman of the committee.

Smith said the budget plan headed to the House floor has many of the proposals Governor Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) submitted to the General Assembly in his Executive Budget.

Chairman Smith said education is a big focus in the budget plan. They included a proposal to give teachers in South Carolina a $3,000 raise to their salaries.

Teacher organizations like the Palmetto State Teachers Association said they are grateful for another possible raise. Starting teacher salaries would also increase to $38,000.

"We appreciate them doing that and seeing the need we have to take care of our teachers,” Palmetto State Teachers Association Kathy Maness said. “Our teachers have to earn a living wage. This is going to help with retaining our teachers."

Public safety is also a big focus in the budget plan. The proposal from the House Ways and Means Committee would set aside about $38 million for state law enforcement raises and recruitment. Another $100 million in one-time money would go to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to make safety improvements to their facilities.

S.C.Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said some of that one-time money would be used for a new locking system, control rooms, cross fencing and razor wire.

"Our officers and the public will be safer,” Stirling said. “That is our core mission. As the director of the Department of Corrections, we want to make sure our staff and the people incarcerated are safe."

House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) said he would like to remove a proposal to return money to taxpayers in the form of rebate credits.

"I don't think we need to do that,” Rep. Rutherford said. “I think we need to put more money towards education and give state employees better raises. I think you will see some amendments for that. Overall, this is a great budget and you can see how fast it went and I think, if it the 25th member, were here she would've voted for it as well."

The House Ways and Means Committee also added $100 million to fix rural roads in South Carolina.

The full House will take up the budget plan on March 9.

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