The South Carolina General Assembly is returning to Columbia on Tuesday to consider nearly $53 million in local projects that Gov. Henry McMaster wants out of the $13.8 billion state budget.
All the money went toward items put in by lawmakers for local concerns, like $25 million to help pay for a quantum computer facility in Columbia, $7 million for a cultural welcome center in Orangeburg and $500,000 to improve the stadium at Summerville High School.
McMaster allowed projects where lawmakers detailed exactly who got the money and where it was going.
“Without sufficient context, description, justification or information regarding the project and how the recipient intends to spend the funds, the public cannot evaluate the earmark’s merit,” McMaster wrote in his vetoes on Wednesday.
Some other items McMaster also struck from the budget, which goes into effect July 1, were $5 million for a park in Myrtle Beach, $2 million for a community center in west Orangeburg and $750,000 for a library in Turbeville,
In all, McMaster issued 73 vetoes. Ten were policies that did not involve money and 29 were budget lines that spent $1 — procedural moves so the House and Senate can negotiate a final spending plan.
Th General Assembly meets Tuesday. To override any of the governor’s vetoes, a two-thirds vote is needed in the House and Senate. There were only a few votes against the budget when the Legislature approved it earlier this month.
McMaster again said instead of giving lawmakers the power to control money for local projects, it should be put into one pot for a public grant process and awarded by merit, with the entire system open for transparency.
The state’s $13.8 billion budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 sets aside $1 billion to send hundreds of dollars of rebates to many South Carolina taxpayers. It also spends $600 million to cut the state’s top income tax rate from 7% to 6.5% and combine other rates to 3%. Lawmakers eventually plan to cut the top rate to 6%.
The spending plan also raises the minimum salary for teachers from $36,000 to $40,000, puts $1 billion extra into road repair and expansion and gives state employees a 3% raise and $1,500 bonus. The budget also raises a number of state law enforcement salaries and sets aside about $1 billion in case this is the year the economy craters.
McMaster praised lawmakers for most of the budget and thanked them for putting more than 250 of his proposals into the final spending plan.