Statehouse Update June 7-9

Statehouse Update June 7-9

Despite the regular session ending last month, legislative business has carried on into the summer as the budget, outstanding bills, and vetoes from the governor draw lawmakers back to Columbia. Here are this week's major highlights.  


The budget 

The budget committee comprised of House and Senate leadership reached a deal on next year’s spending plan, despite what looked like an impasse among members just 24 hours prior. The major hurdle, at least on the surface, centered on whether to appropriate over $100 million for a new veterinary medicine school at Clemson. That money was approved by the committee, and the budget now heads to the House and Senate for a final up or down vote.  

While we won’t have the exact numbers until budget documents are published, the finalized draft exceeds our recommended spending limit based on population growth plus inflation (read more about this here). The House and Senate approved large budget increases for state agencies, and members on both sides requested hundreds of millions of dollars in spending for local projects in their legislative districts.  

Instead of hiking up spending, the Policy Council has recommended using the massive state surplus to speed up tax relief, following last year’s historic, though incomplete, tax cut efforts. Our review earlier this year found that the House and Senate apply just $96 million towards reducing the state personal income tax, taking the top rate from 6.5% to 6.4%. For context, there is $1.4 billion in new recurring revenue available, according to the latest budget spreadsheet 

In his January executive budget, Gov. McMaster recommended using additional funds to speed up income tax relief. We urge him to stay on this initiative, vetoing excessive spending and freeing up taxpayer dollars once lawmakers send him the budget.  


The House floor 

The House unanimously approved a bill (H.3553) to eliminate the mandatory 90-day waiting period when finalizing an adoption, which is a great step and will make it easier for parents to adopt. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.  

The body also passed a bill (S.96) requiring boater safety training for everyone who operates a boat born after July 1, 2007. Currently a safety course is only required for boaters 16 and under who are unaccompanied by an adult. This bill also heads to the governor. 

Meanwhile, House lawmakers sustained the governor’s veto on H.4413, which would have allowed the Bamberg County Legislative Delegation to continue appointing the county's school board through at least July 1, 2028. In his veto message, the governor correctly notes that voters should not be deprived of the ability to elect their local school board for any longer. He also points out that one member of the legislative delegation, who is an attorney, has been representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the school district. Mind you, as a member of the delegation, this legislator wields appointment power over the district, though that will end following the governor’s veto. The governor reiterates that legislators should stop suing public agencies or entities due to perceived or actual conflicts of interest, which we firmly agree with. 

The House overrode the governor’s other three vetoes: H.3890  allows expungement for youthful offenders related to certain offenses; S.31  relaxes annual financial reporting requirements for municipalities and allows the state treasurer to extend the deadline for a county to submit an individual independent audit; and S.478  reduces the number of members on the Broadway Water and Sewer District from nine to seven.