S.C. Senate passes its budget —
Last week (week ending April 21) the state Senate took just two days to finish up their version of the state budget.
For SCICU member institutions, the highlights are largely the same as the House budget, which is good news. The Senate budget fully funds S.C. merit scholarships (Palmetto Fellows, LIFE, and HOPE Scholarships), and it also retains from last year the $20 million in lottery funding for the S.C. Tuition Grants Program. The Tuition Grants Commission has used that additional funding to increase the maximum grant for the 2023-24 academic year to $4,700 from $4,500. That’s great news for the about 12,000 S.C. residents who receive a Tuition Grant.
The big-ticket item on which the two houses differ is raises for state employees. The Senate would spend $166 million to give a flat $2,500 raise to employees who make less than $50,000 and a five percent raise to those who make more than that. The House approved spending $122 million to give a $2,500 raise to those who make less than $83,000 and a three percent raise to those making above that pay.
Now the Senate version goes back to the House where it is expected to remain until the Board of Economic Advisors meets on May 9 to make its revenue forecasts. Many expect the BEA will project even more funding for the General Assembly to spend next year. With that information, the House likely will not accept the Senate’s version of the budget and a conference committee will be formed to hash out the differences. But additional revenue should make those negotiations a lot easier.