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South Carolina lawmakers start debate on $40B state budget

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(The Center Square) — South Carolina lawmakers are debating a roughly $40 billion fiscal 2024-25 state budget that anticipates more than $12 billion in state general funds and billions more in federal money.

Last month, the South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors voted to keep the fiscal 2023-24 revenue forecast estimate at nearly $12.9 billion and the fiscal 2024-25 revenue forecast estimate at more than $13.2 billion.

According to an analysis from the South Carolina Policy Council, the proposed budget includes $500 million for a property tax credit “for owner-occupied homes,” $200 million to increase teacher salaries and a state income tax reduction — from 6.4% to 6.3%. It also includes $57.5 million for South Carolina four-year colleges and universities to freeze tuition.

“Our booming economy in 2023 once again created a record budget surplus, over $1.64 billion,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in his January State of the State address. In unveiling his fiscal 2024-25 Executive Budget earlier this year, the Republican governor said his spending plan sends more money to the state’s reserve fund and increases spending on replacing aging bridges across South Carolina.

McMaster’s proposed Executive Budget totaled more than $39.9 billion, an increase from the $38.8 billion fiscal 2023-24 budget. The South Carolina Policy Council analysis found that the House Ways and Means Committee proposal increased the total to $40.6 billion.

“As the House begins to debate the state budget, we’re ready to support big investments for public education, state employees, and economic growth,” South Carolina House Democrats said in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter.

In its analysis, the South Carolina Policy Council said the proposed budget exceeds the South Carolina Sustainable Budget by $31.1 million. The group created the South Carolina Sustainable Budget, a “maximum limit on annual recurring general funds appropriations based on the rate of state population growth plus inflation,” in 2022.

The group also said lowering the state’s income tax rate to 6% would cost an additional $300 million.

“Today, the SC House begins debating a budget that showcases our economic success and steadfast fiscal stewardship,” the South Carolina House GOP Caucus said in a Monday post to X. “It’s a plan that strategically invests in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and economic growth, meeting our state’s needs with efficiency and responsibility.”