After three days of debate, and more than 210 roll call votes, the House of Representatives approved the state budget this week and sent it to the Senate.
The $23.9 billion budget was approved on Wednesday morning. About $6.9 billion of that amount is our true state budget, while most of the rest comes in federal pass-through dollars direct to other entities such as school districts, fees and fines paid to agencies, or items such as tuition payments by parents to public colleges.
I wrote last week about a number of the major spending priorities. Here are a few items that prompted debate on the House floor during the budget.
- We approved a plan that will allow counties and cities to “buy” shorter roads from the state so we can reduce the patchwork of roads that are owned by multiple entities. There are some 20,000 miles of roads in the state that are less than a mile in length and could be purchased with existing road funds available to the counties. As one House member put it, this is a “funded un-mandate.”
- We protected the rights of students to distribute copies of the Constitution on campus after a California college student was blocked from handing out the Constitution at his college in Modesto.
- House Republicans held the line and rebuffed attempts by Democrats to force hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending items and pork-barrel projects.
- We also held the line against Democrat attempts to force South Carolina to radically expand our Medicaid program under Obamacare. We have categorically rejected the Medicaid expansion for years. The General Assembly has already prioritized our Medicaid program to assist children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The Democrats’ insistence of adding working-age adults to the program will bankrupt the state in the long-term or force future General Assemblies to raise taxes on a massive scale. More government healthcare and higher taxes for dependence programs are unacceptable.
- We included $30 million in new money for the local government fund – which assists local governments in paying for state-required services. Some local governments have complained that this is not enough (any state appropriation for any agency or program is “never enough”), but the local government fund is a tiny fraction of the money funneled through to local governments. Never mind the fact that twice in two decades, the General Assembly has been heavily lobbied by citizens to rein in out-of-control local government spending. A study of the issue showed that while the standard spending cap of “population growth plus inflation” over the past 10 years was about 40 percent, yet local government revenue grew by 55 percent. It sounds to House Republicans that local governments have a spending addiction that they need to kick.
The budget process went smoothly this year, something I attribute to the incredible openness and transparency that technology has brought to the debate in the past few years. Our state budget reflects the conservative values of the people of our state. Thank you to any of you who took the time to participate through by attending hearings, watching online, or writing your legislators.
As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.