COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina House of Representatives gave final approval to the 2011-2012 state budget today — a balanced budget that pays down the state’s debts and fully funds reserve funds while increasing per-student funding for public schools.
Two priorities for House Republicans in the budget included fully funding a new constitutional requirement (approved by voters in 2010) to boost the amount of money in the state’s reserve funds. Those are fully funded in this budget. In addition, the budget appropriated $146 million to pay down the state’s debt to the federal government for unemployment benefits. That will help pay down nearly a quarter of the debt and significantly lower the unemployment insurance businesses must pay.
“The House worked hard to keep government small and use any available additional tax dollars to meet the requirements of the state spending limits we have repeatedly approved — paying down debt and filling our state’s rainy-day funds,” said Rep. Dan Cooper, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “My Republican colleagues have put forth a solid budget that we can all be proud of.”
After paying down debt and increasing the reserve funds, the budget increased the public schools’ “Base Student Cost” by 16 percent, or $163 per student. The budget also prohibits spending general fund dollars for lobbying, increases the number of state troopers, and directs money to the Commerce Department to bring new businesses to our state.
The total budget approved Wednesday totals $21.9 billion. Of that total, only the $5.45 billion General Fund is directed by the General Assembly. Of the rest, approximately $8.4 billion is Federal money flowing straight to Medicaid, schools, and local governments. Another $8 billion is “other money” — primarily money parents pay in college tuition directly to universities and gasoline tax money that is sent directly to the Department of Transportation for road maintenance and construction.
“My conservative colleagues worked hard to appropriate the dollars we have control of in the most fiscally responsible way,” said House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce. “No budget is perfect, but I am pleased that we crafted a budget that observes the spending restrictions the House has tried to impose on state government.”
Another proposed restriction followed by the House was holding the conference report for one day after it was received from the committee. The House rule has been proposed by Rep. Dan Hamilton, R-Taylors, and will come up for a vote in January.
“It’s important that everyone has time to scrutinize how our tax dollars are being spent,” Rep. Hamilton said. “Putting a one day hold on spending plans before any action is taken is a great step in the right direction toward providing accountability and transparency when spending tax dollars.”