The Senate spent all of last week on the state budget. We have 2 weeks left in this year’s regular session.
State Budget – The Senate continued consideration of the state budget last week. After a total of 7 days of debate, the Senate gave the budget 2nd reading (each bill requires 3 readings, or votes) late Thursday night. The Senate should vote on each of the roughly 100 sections of the budget this week before sending the bill back to the House of Representatives. Here are some of the highlights of the two-week discussion:
– infrastructure funding: the money used to fund maintenance and repairs on our roads and bridges comes, almost exclusively, from gas tax revenue and federal funds devoted to federal roads. With a surplus of $683M in this year’s General Fund, I and several other senators attempted to apply some of the surplus to road and bridge work. Ultimately, the Senate agreed to send $50M to the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to repair and rehabilitate bridges across the state. The SIB can bond the money and use it to leverage $500M over a 15 year period.
– Medicaid expansion: the Senate spent several hours debating whether to expand the Medicaid program pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). With a vote of 23-19, the Senate opted not to expand Medicaid.
– tax credits for school choice: nearly an entire day last was week was devoted to a discussion about whether to offer tax credits to parents of poor and disabled students for school choice options. The main amendment failed, but a later amendment that would allow parents of children with special needs to access scholarship funds for more educational opportunities did pass.
– local government funding: The state places a large number of mandates on local governments. To offset the financial hit of those mandates, the state sends a good bit of funding to local governments, typically referred to as the Local Government Fund (LGF). Although state law requires LGF to be 4.5% of the previous year’s General Fund budget, the General Assembly has suspended that requirement for the past few years. In this year’s budget, the House voted to fund LGF at the same rate as last year. The Senate Finance Committee reduced that funding by roughly 10%. Last week, the full Senate voted to restore LGF funding to last year’s level just as the House did.
– new school buses: South Carolina owns just over 5,000 school buses, 58% of which are more than 15 years old. A state law passed in 2007 recommends that the state replace 1/15th of the bus fleet every year, so as to cycle buses out after a 15-year life span. Unfortunately, as is obvious from 58% of the buses being over 15 years old, the General Assembly has done a terrible job living up to that commitment: it would cost about $35 million each year. Three years ago I joined with two other senators in fighting to provide more funds for the Department of Education to buy buses. We were able to get about 1/3 of the funds necessary then, and through a continued push we’ve found nearly $25 million this year. We’re not where we need to be, but I do feel like we’re making progress on this legitimate state obligation.
Capital Reserve Fund bill – The S.C. Constitution provides for a separate fund for capital projects. Along with the budget each year, the General Assembly passes a Capital Reserve Fund bill to fund several projects, most of which are legitimate capital needs. I expect the Senate will discuss these expenditures this week, as well.
Last Week’s Meetings
Unfortunately, I missed a few in-district meetings last week because of the extended budget debate. I really wanted to attend the FFA banquets at Strom Thurmond High School and Saluda High School, but the budget debate kept me in Columbia. Here are some of the events I made, though:
- On Saturday, I attended a Memorial Day ceremony in McCormick. It was a beautiful day and a great program.
High school graduations – It’s graduation season, and I congratulate all 2013 seniors for a significant accomplishment! Here’s a list of remaining high school graduations in our district. Please let me know if I’ve missed any.
Saluda High School
Friday, May 31 – 7:30 p.m.
Aiken High School
Thursday, June 6 – 2:00p.m.
Fox Creek High School
Thursday, June 6 – 7:00p.m.
Midland Valley High School
Friday, June 7 – 9:00a.m.
Ridge Spring-Monetta High School
Friday, June 7 – 3:00p.m.
North Augusta High School
Friday, June 7 – 6:00p.m.
Strom Thurmond High School
Friday, June 7 – 7:00p.m.
Batesburg-Leesville High School
Friday, June 7 – 8:00p.m.
Lexington High School
Saturday, June 8 – 8:30a.m.
Gilbert High School
Saturday, June 8 – 6:00p.m.
Our Senate District – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
Speaking with Groups – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
Email updates – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Email – email@example.com
Cell Phone – (803) 480-0419