Communique from the SC House GOP Caucus
This week was another busy week in Columbia. Progress was made on the comprehensive education reform bill and this year’s budget was successfully passed out of the Ways and Means Committee. The 2019-2020 budget is built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we vote to spend. Because of our fiscally conservative budgeting, South Carolina is currently one of only fourteen states with a AAA credit rating according to Moody’s. Our debt level is .39% of state revenues which is significantly lower than our constitutionally set 5% limit. In addition to efficiently funding the normal core functions of government, this year we are making substantive investments in education and workforce development. We have prioritized public and higher education not only because we owe it to our students, but also to ensure our students are prepared for the workforce.
Highlights from the House Ways and Means Committee Budget Proposal
* Almost $160 million to provide teachers a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers.
* $44 million in recurring funds to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students.
* Almost $78 million for improvements to workforce partnership programs in technical colleges, including funding for training new workers, purchasing new workforce equipment and more.
* $40 million for new, paper-backup voting machines to ensure our election process is secure and fair.
* $20 million to exempt from income taxes the retirement income of military veterans and first responders, saving the average first responder and military veteran $350 each year.
Amendments to the Education Bill
On Wednesday, Gov. Henry McMaster, House Speaker Jay Lucas, S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, and State Sen. Greg Hembree held a press conference in support of the comprehensive education reform bill. After hearing input and concerns from teachers, parents, students and the business community, the original legislation was amended, and the bill is now stronger with the foundations of bold reform still intact. The Education K-12 Subcommittee began hearing debate and amendments following the press conference and passed the amended bill out of the subcommittee on Thursday morning. The bill currently has 84 co-sponsors and is scheduled to be taken up in the full House Education Committee next week.
The House passed H.3449 to remove the cap on the number of permitted hemp farms. Farmers will still need to apply for a permit with the S.C. Department of Agriculture, but there will no longer be a cap for the number of permits available or limits on the number of acres that can be planted with hemp.