COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The South Carolina House of Representatives approved their $13.8 billion budget plan this week.
“This is a transformational budget for South Carolina,” House Speaker Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) told reporters after the bill received its third reading Wednesday morning.
Lawmakers say one of the highlights included in the spending plan raises for educators in South Carolina. Lawmakers approved a $2,500 increase to the starting teacher salary and every step in the teacher salary schedule.
School districts that pay their teachers more than the state-mandated base pay can decide whether to use the additional money they’re receiving towards increasing salaries or other expenses.
“We left flexibility in place for those districts that already paying those amounts to make those raises what they want to,” House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) said.
Under the House’s budget plan, state employees would also receive raises. State workers making less than $83,000 a year will get a $2,500 raise. Anyone making more than that will receive a 3% raise.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) said, “State employees are libertarians, democrats and republicans and none of the above. Your political party should have nothing to do with your support or lack thereof of a pay raise.”
Rep. Bannister said state nurses, mental health professionals, law enforcement, and corrections officers would also receive recruitment and retention pay increases.
The House voted 108-11 to give the budget second reading Tuesday afternoon. Some of the members of the Freedom Caucus voted against it.
During the floor debate, the conservative group had voiced concerns about diversity initiatives at state universities.
Rep. RJ May (R-Lexington) said, “My constituents think that the size of government was too big last year. I would not vote for a budget that grew the size and scope of government. There are some good parts in this budget and we voted for them in their individual sections.”
Under the House’s budget, about $200 million would be used to expedite fixing bridges in the state and $69 million to freeze in-state tuition rates once again at public universities.