Published Jan. 14, 2013
Gov. Nikki Haley detailed her $6.61 billion executive budget in Columbia on Monday, in what traditionally serves as an annual event to highlight the governor’s fiscal priorities for the coming year.
Haley said this is the third year she has proposed a balanced budget with a tax cut for South Carolinians, including small businesses. She focused on education, law enforcement and economic development and continued her approach of paying for roads and transportation infrastructure by using surplus funds.
“This year’s budget builds upon the themes that have been at the core of our priorities from the very beginning — creating jobs and improving the business climate, providing a better education for our children, making our state a safer place to live and work, strengthening our infrastructure without raising taxes, and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society,” Haley said in a statement.
Haley’s budget reflects a 3.73% increase from the previous year in the state’s General Fund, which is controlled by the General Assembly and governor. The state’s total budget of more than $23.45 billion includes federal money and money allocated from other sources for particular items.
One of the top priorities, as expected, was paying for her $155.8 million education reform initiative, which she went public with earlier this month and includes the following:
- $97 million to educate children in poverty.
- $29.5 million to fund a reading coach program to put a reading coach in every public elementary school in South Carolina.
- $29.3 million to improve bandwidth to schools, increase wireless connectivity and ensure every student has a computer or tablet.
Haley also proposes increasing the recurring General Fund appropriation to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division by 9.6%, or more than $3.5 million, which would bring SLED’s legislative budget to 74% higher than it was in 2011.
Haley also proposed allocating $720,000 toward prosecuting violent crimes by hiring more assistant solicitors, investigators and other support staff. She also wants to hire five new prosecutors for the S.C. Attorney General for nearly $370,000.
An increase of more than $2.1 million for the S.C. Department of Public Safety would go toward hiring 10 new agents, improving the agency’s information technology security, and promoting or reclassifying state troopers.
Haley touched on the state’s ailing transportation infrastructure by outlining how the state could spend more than $1.35 billion in the next 10 years by relying on surplus money. The S.C. Department of Transportation has said the state needs around $29 billion in highway funding for next 20 years.
Haley said that, since fiscal 2005-06, revenue estimates have, on average, exceeded budgeted amounts by $106.9 million. So she’s asking for surplus money to be continue to be put toward repairing and improving the state’s transportation system.
She said that could generate nearly $737 million for major construction projects, along with almost $614 million more for maintenance and repair over the next decade.
Last year, the General Assembly and Haley increased funding by $600 million for roads and bridges, which was the first increase in nearly 30 years.
“We’re finding ways to fix our roads without raising taxes in South Carolina, and that’s something we can all be proud of,” Haley said in her introduction to the budget.