A spending plan unanimously approved by South Carolina’s Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday includes previously suspended salary raises for teachers, additional funding for school nurses and funding for prison safety and security updates.
Lawmakers will consider the budget amendment when they return to Columbia next week. The state has been operating under a continuing resolution that extended fiscal year 2019-2020 spending levels since the new fiscal year began July 1.
“That step increase for the teachers is something that’s so important when we think about what they are going through right now – some of them have to teach virtual, some are in the classroom, some are doing hybrid,” Sen. Floyd Nicholson, D-Greenwood, said during the meeting. “That’s so important to those teachers that we show that we’re behind them 100 percent.”
The budget includes $775 million in one-time appropriations, allocating $500 million in a reserve to offset mid-year agency cuts. The committee approved $70 million in reserve for COVID-19 response, $6 million for more school nurses, and $50 million for safety and security updates for the Department of Corrections.
Earlier this year, salary step raises for public school teachers were included in budget cuts. The spending plan approved by the Finance Committee on Wednesday reinstates them.
Also included in the plan is $4.1 million set aside for one-time stipends of $175 for poll workers working during the pandemic and hazard pay for state employees earning $50,000 or less.
“We are in very uncertain times,” Finance Committee Chairperson Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said. “Let’s hope the vaccine comes along and gets us away from this virus. I know that in our home, we’re tired of being cooped up.”