COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina lawmakers were back at the State House Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday, state senators passed their version of the state budget that’s now making its way to the House chambers.
The House spent its first day back in Columbia to deal with the November election, but members of the Senate used the day to decide how to spend money in the state’s budget.
“I look at what we’re doing as a protective budget,” said Senator Shane Martin. The Spartanburg senator was referring to how senators decided to spend the state’s almost $900 million budget.
Much of the money is going to a reserve account to protect state agencies from mid-year budget cuts. But there are other priorities state senators are investing money in.
Senator Campbell outlined one area of need. “We want the schools to have a full-time nurse. There’s nothing like a pandemic to put stress on our schools.”
Senators are proposing $6 million to put a full time nurse in every K-12 public school. Campbell continued, “If we’re going to get them back in the school buildings, where they need to be. We need to make sure they’re healthy and not having one kid infecting another or kids infecting teachers.”
State employees who have worked through the pandemic can also expect a financial boost. There’s a one-time $1000 bonus for employees making less than $50k a year if this budget passes.
Senator John Scott commented on the bonus. “State employees who were put in harms way needed something extra.”
“Because they were required to be there, they were exposing themselves, they were exposed to the public,” Campbell added.
Money is also being allocated for prison improvements and marketing campaigns to help the tourism industry recover.
But senators were also careful not to spend all the money. $70 million is left on the table for future needs.
Senator Scott explained, “We don’t know yet. That whole $70 million could go to unemployment. It could go towards more testing. We have to wait and see what exactly happens.”
Additionally, the Senate’s version of the budget includes more than $4 million to give poll workers working the November election a stipend.
With this budget teacher salaries would also get a bump. Additional funding would also be sent to charter schools, which have seen an influx in enrollment since the pandemic started.