COLUMBIA (AP) South Carolina lawmakers on June 28 passed an $8 billion state budget that gives a 1 percent salary increase for teachers and builds a new state crime lab, but a squabble over roughly $20,000 for Planned Parenthood still could jeopardize $34 million in Medicaid funding.
The Senate passed the budget 30-9 before lunch. The House approved it on an 84-28 vote hours later, just three days before the budget would go into effect. A previously passed resolution will allow the government to stay open after July 1 with a finalized spending plan.
Some Republicans who oppose all abortions wanted to remove $34 million that Medicaid gives for family planning and abstinence education and replace it with state budget money. That would allow lawmakers to remove the small bit of money that goes to Planned Parenthood, but would also leave a hole elsewhere in the spending plan.
They have an ally in Gov. Henry McMaster, who promised to cut the $34 million out with his line-item veto on the campaign trail before winning his party’s nomination on June 26.
“I’m actually pleading with you to send a message to Planned Parenthood that abortion is not wanted in South Carolina,” Sen. Richard Cash, R-Powdersville, said to his colleagues.
But plenty of Republicans — even those against abortions — said the move is shortsighted and will impact other parts of the budget like additional money for law enforcement or help for families with children with autism.
“You are voting for a budget with an illusion at the expense of a reality,” said Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia.
The fight is likely just a preview of a bigger battle to come in a few weeks. McMaster has until next July 5 to veto any part of the budget he wants. With a veto, lawmakers in both the House and Senate would need a two-thirds vote to get the money back into the budget.
“I’m smart enough to realize my governor downstairs is going to veto,” said Republican Sen. Ronnie Cromer of Prosperity, who said he would show he is against abortion by voting for the budget June 28 and then refusing to override a McMaster veto of the money later.
All the discussion over abortion overshadowed the rest of the spending plan.
All public school teachers in South Carolina get a 1 percent raise, and extra money will assure no teacher makes less than $32,000 a year in the new budget. Currently about 20 school districts in poorer areas have lower starting salaries.
The budget provides $54 million to build a new State Law Enforcement Division crime lab and about $17 million for school safety measures — mostly door locks, cameras and metal detectors, although there is money to hire some school police officers in the poorest districts.
The spending plan also removes for a year a $10,000 cap on earnings for police officers drawing retirement pay, but only if they go back and work in schools.
The compromise budget was reached late June 26 while the state’s attention was on the results of runoff elections. It did not include an item easing restrictions on solar panels on rooftops that also failed as a separate bill.
The final budget also did not include several items senators wanted, including $5 million to help build the International African American Museum in Charleston. House members refused to agree to it.
“This has probably been one of the most frustrating conferences I have ever seen,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence, first elected in 1980. “I don’t know how you negotiate with someone who won’t negotiate with you.”