House members opt to keep merit-based raises for state employees in spending plan

House members opt to keep merit-based raises for state employees in spending plan

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The debate surrounding where your tax dollars could be going in 2020-21 took center stage at the State House.

House members debated the $10 billion dollar spending plan Tuesday. The budget includes raises for teachers, tax credits for you and your family and money to fix rural roads. This is one of the largest budgets the state has ever had.

House members spent most of the morning debating the best way to raise salaries for state employees.

The budget plan sets aside about $40 million to pay for merit-based raises. State agency heads and supervisors would decide which employees get that raise.

Some House members made a push on Tuesday for higher across the board raises for all state employees.

South Carolina State Employees Association Executive Director Carlton Washington said, "The historical piece around merit-based increases is that generally the people who need to get those increases, do not get those increases."

Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) proposed an amendment to raise pay for state employees by 5% across-the-board. IT would cost about $63 million. House members voted that proposal down.

Rep. Cobb-Hunter also proposed another amendment to raise pay for state employees by 2.5%. That plan was also rejected.

Washington said, "What state employees don't understand is -- why is it okay for South Carolina teachers to get a cost of living increase and to get a $3000 bump in teacher salaries? And it's okay for state employees to get merit increases?"

Supporters of the merit-based raises proposal said extra money is being sent to critical need areas. Rep. Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) said, "The purpose of the way we've done it is to give the agency flexibility to address those needs where they believe they are most prevalent."

Rep. Bannister said the budget includes $39 million to cover higher premiums for employees on the state health plan.

He also said the Department of Administration is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive review of state employee salaries and private sector salaries.

The State Employees Association said they are shifting their focus to the Senate. They are asking for a 5% across-the-board raise.

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