SC House budget panel begins debate: Five things to watch

abeam@thestate.comFebruary 18, 2013 

— S.C. House budget writers meet today to begin crafting the state’s $23 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Lawmakers will spend most of their time discussing the $6.9 billion general fund, money that mostly comes from sales taxes, and corporate and individual income taxes.

Next month, the full House will debate the budget, which then goes to the Senate.

After differences between the House and Senate plans are ironed out, the budget goes to Gov. Nikki Haley, who must sign off on the spending plan – or veto part or all of it – by June 30.

Five key issues to watch:

Health care

Lawmakers must decide if the federal-state Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled should be expanded, and whether the state health plan should comply with Obamacare.

Republicans vow not to expand Medicaid, saying it would cost a total of $1 billion by 2020. Lawmakers have options with the state health plan, ranging from $53 million, for not complying, to $124 million, for full compliance.

Likely? The low range.


Last year, lawmakers budgeted $2,012 per student. This year, an extra $20 million is needed just to keep spending at the same level.

Lawmakers would need to add about $600 million to fully fund the per-pupil amount according to state law. Most lawmakers say that added money is out of reach.

Likely? A little more than $20 million.

Cyber security

Haley wants the state to spend $3 million for cyber-security upgrades after hackers stole the personal information of 6.4 million consumers, children and businesses from the Revenue Department.

Last week, the Board of Economic Advisors added $117 million in one-time money to the state budget, and House budget chairman Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, indicated lawmakers could use some of that money to set up a “cyber-security fund.”

Likely? More than $3 million.

Prisons and probation

Sentencing reform means the state’s prison population is declining while the number of nonviolent offenders on probation and parole is increasing.

Faced with those new realities, the Department of Corrections wants to spend an extra $18 million on its most dangerous prisons and to give raises to the officers that work in those prisons.

The Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole also says it needs $2 million to hire more people to monitor those on probation.

Likely? Roughly $20 million.


South Carolina needs $29 billion over the next 20 years to repair state-owned roads and bridges, according to a transportation report. House Republicans are pushing a bill that would spend 80 percent of the money from vehicle sales taxes for road repairs – about $80 million a year.

Haley wants lawmakers to use portions of budget surpluses – this year and in the future – to pay for repairs.

Likely? A little of both.

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