South Carolina lawmakers to consider budget compromise

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HB1 sat on Tuesday's House Order of the Day throughout the morning session without Speaker Taylor Barras naming a conference committee to negotiate that bill, as well as HB2, and the bills for supplemental funding to close the current fiscal year and a bill to provide funding for ancillary state services in the new fiscal year which beings on July 1.

But while the proposal spends more than the House version, it isn't free of cuts. On HB1 the conferees are likely to include the chairs of the two committees that did the main work on the bill - Rep. Cameron Henry, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Sen.

The House passed the budget plan but the Senate voted against one proviso that would take some oversight power away from the Commission on Higher Education.

Several Republican lawmakers were happy to see the Legislature, which their party controls, trying to improve the state's education system, but they didn't believe additional funding is all of the solution. The fiscal year ends June 30, which could lead to a state government shutdown if all parties do not come to a budget agreement by then.

Negotiations were continuing Wednesday, with legislative leaders saying they expect to reach a compromise before the two-month regular session must adjourn at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Democrats in both the House and the Senate, along with the Republican majority in the House, have expressed significant skepticism over the income tax reduction plan favored by the governor.

House GOP leaders say the Senate version of the budget depends on unreliable financing and would lead to midyear cuts.

In all, the House wants to spend $152 million less in the budget than what the Senate approved on Sunday, or 98.3 percent of the anticipated money available for next year.

The Senate is expected later Tuesday to otherwise approve the roughly $8 billion spending compromise worked out last week by a six-member panel.

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Delegate Michael Folk, a Martinsburg Republican, said the leadership in the House, Senate and governor's office all seem to be able to do one thing, raise taxes.

The House offer's elimination of 2 percent pay raises for some 38,000 state workers in "classified" roles, including parole and probation officers who have suffered high turnover rates.

The road projects are a reference to Governor Justice's plan to pump $2.8 billion into highways and bridge projects around the state, financed largely through increased taxes, fees, tolls and bonding.

"Why we are not tapping this resources is beyond me", Tyson said.

As compared to a year ago through May, the state has taken in $550.3 million less in revenue.

Gov. Edwards lauded the Senate bill as a "responsible approach to state spending".

After lawmakers made deep cuts in 2015 to a therapy program for children with disabilities, the new Medicaid budget includes some funding to increase payments to speech, physical and occupational therapists.

The proposal, obtained by The Associated Press, would remove dollars the Senate proposed to spend on health services, colleges, prisons, state police and the child welfare agency.

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