SC lawmakers approve legislation to avoid shutdown, fund state coronavirus response

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 8:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tuesday afternoon, South Carolina lawmakers voted to send a piece of legislation to the governor’s desk that would keep state government running.

The continuing resolution will keep state government funded until a state budget can be passed later this fall. These measures are usually passed just in case a budget isn’t approved by June 30.

Last month, the debate over Santee Cooper stalled those efforts.

House and Senate members said they worked closely over the last few weeks to make sure a compromise could be reached.

“We worked collaboratively with the governor and the Senate to come to a resolution," Rep. Murrell Smith, House Ways and Means Chairman, said. “As you can see -- it moved quickly between both bodies.”

The House passed an amended continuing resolution by a vote of 111 to 8. The Senate concurred with those changes by a vote of 33 to 8.

In addition to keeping state government funded, the resolution sets aside $155 million of surplus money for a state COVID-19 response account, $15 million to protect poll workers during this year’s elections and $25 million to help the Medical University of South Carolina with statewide testing.

“You test and you know who has the virus. You try to make sure the ones who have come in contact with that person have been notified," Smith, R-Sumter, said.

According to Smith, they are planning to work on the budget plan in September so they’ll have a better idea of how much money they’ll have to work with. State budget forecasters said the pandemic could wipe out almost all of the projected surplus for the upcoming fiscal year.

“As long as we have some minimal to positive growth in the budget -- we shouldn’t have to endure those budget cuts and furlough state employees,” Smith said.

The continuing resolution does allow state agencies, colleges and universities to furlough employees if needed.

Tuesday afternoon lawmakers also approved to expand absentee voting to any South Carolinian because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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