SC Senate Protects Pre-K $ But Local Services Could be Cut - WSPA.com

SC Senate Protects Pre-K $ But Local Services Could be Cut

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SC Senators debate the budget Wednesday. SC Senators debate the budget Wednesday.
COLUMBIA, S.C. - State senators working on next year’s budget for South Carolina voted Wednesday to keep $16 million in the budget to expand a pilot pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds, but that means cities and counties might have to reduce their services.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, had proposed an amendment to move the $16 million from the 4K expansion to what’s called Aid to Local Subdivisions, which is money the state sends to city and county governments.  Lawmakers back in 1943 created that program as property tax relief, so local governments wouldn’t have to raise property taxes since they would be getting money from the state.

Last year, cities and counties were supposed to get $287.5 million from the state, but got only $213 million. Sen. Martin’s amendment would have given them the same $213 million.

But  senators voted 29 to 13 to keep the money in the 4K expansion program. Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, says, "Local governments need that money and I agree with that. But if you're asking the question which one is the most important to this state, is whether we're going to support local government, bureaucracy and funding, or whether we'll educate our children? I think most people'll tell you you get better bang for your buck if you educate your children."

Sen. Martin says not sending the money to local governments could affect you with things like slower response time from law enforcement and EMS, or overcrowding at county jails.

"They're really put in a precarious situation by actions such as this, where we just arbitrarily pull the plug on money they're expecting to receive,” he says. “It'd be like essentially losing a large industry in the county, that type of impact on their budget."

The money for local governments will go on a list of things to fund if the state ends up with a surplus, but that means the money might not be there, and cities and counties won’t know whether they’ll get it when they’re making their budget plans.

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Robert is the 7 On Your Side reporter covering politics and government at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.
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