State lawmakers to prioritize spending with $1.8B budget surplus

VIDEO: State lawmakers to prioritize spending with $1.8B budget surplus

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - When state lawmakers return to the Statehouse in Columbia to hammer out next year’s spending plan, they will have extra money to work with.

Budget forecasters predict the Palmetto State will have nearly an additional $2 billion in next year’s budget.

Some South Carolinians are cashing in $50 rebate checks thanks to a surplus in last year’s budget.

With a $1.8 billion surplus in next year’s budget, there are calls for lawmakers to use the extra money to raise salaries for teachers, improve funding for prisons and repair aging public buildings with the extra money.

“Employee pay is a critical issue that hasn’t gotten the issue it needs,” South Carolina State Employee Association Executive Director Carlton Washington said.

Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter who serves as the first vice chair on the House Ways and Means Committee says the extra money can go a long way.

“For me the priority is state employee pay period,” she said. “There are many other needs but as a state and a legislature we need to do a good job of prioritizing those needs and figuring out.”

In 2019, state employees received a 2 percent raise and a $600 bonus for employees who make less than $70,000 a year. But some state agencies are still struggling to fill positions.

“Many legislators have been waiting for an opportunity like this to address this in a meaningful way,” Washington said. “We expect them to pursue their goal.”

Rep. Chip Huggins of Lexington County says addressing state employee pay is important.

“We still need to continue to attract good state employees and quality state employees,” Huggins said.

Huggins also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. He says teacher salaries, better funding for law enforcement and funding pension plans are also priorities.

“We’re very fortunate, very thankful, that South Carolina is going to have this extra revenue and we’re going to absolutely be the best stewards we can be,” he said.

He says he’d also like to send some of the surplus back to the taxpayers.

Gov. Henry McMaster will release his executive budget plan in January.

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