Legislative Report: April 1

2021-2022 State Budget Overview

The House adjourned on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after passing a budget for consideration by the Senate. Upon adjournment, we entered a week of furlough until we return on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, saving taxpayers approximately $86,000, for 124 House members to attend a regular session week.

Representative Chip Huggins District 85 Serving Chapin and Irmo Chairman, Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee

This week, we took up the 2021-2022 state budget. I am happy to report that this may be the most conservative budget yet. In short, this budget funds only necessary government services while recognizing that we are still in uncertain pandemic conditions. Although we expect state revenue to go up (as COVID-19 cases continue to fall), we cannot bank on that quite yet… and as such, we must be prepared by being conservative with our state’s resources.

After hours of debate and hundreds of votes, we passed a budget that prioritizes a renewed dedication to improving education, funding resources for law enforcement, expanding broadband internet access, and honoring our continued promise to never fund Planned Parenthood. I am including some more highlights from the budget below. Of course, if you have any questions or concerns about anything in the budget or any votes I cast, do not hesitate to reach out. If you want more information about the budget, visit the Ways and Means Committee page on the South Carolina State House website: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/Ways&MeansBudgetDocuments/BudgetDocuments.php.

Increased Reserves

$18.7 million in additional funding to the General Reserve Fund and $7.5 million to the Capital Reserve Fund.

An extra $500 million appropriated for a Pandemic Stabilization Reserve Fund.

These additions bring South Carolina’s total reserves to $1.1 billion.

Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund

$50 million to begin a statewide Disaster Relief and Resilience For Disaster relief assistance, Hazard mitigation, Infrastructure improvements, & Statewide resilience planning

Scholarship Reserves

$31.5 million for a Scholarship Trust Fund, a ‘rainy-day’ fund to cover scholarships in future years of potential lottery revenue shortfalls

State Employees & Employee Benefits

$5.9 million to fully cover the state employee health and dental insurance increases so employees will have no additional monthly premium cost.

Local Government

$17.6 million to fully fund the Local Government Fund including the FY 19-20 appropriation.

Disaster Recovery

$12.7 million for the FEMA state match for Hurricane Dorian.

Broadband

$30 million to continue statewide broadband efforts

Public Education

$50 million to increase the Base Student Cost to $2,500.

$48 million for instructional materials.

$5.5 million to fund a full-time nurse in every school.

$10 million for full-day 4K through First Steps (33% increase, adding an additional 600 children)

$15 million recurring and $9.5 million non-recurring for public charter school growth.

$2 million increase for School Resource Officers

Higher Education

Colleges and Universities: $150 million in non-recurring for maintenance, renovations, and capital needs at colleges.

Technical Colleges: $10 million for maintenance and capital needs.

$2.5 million for the “ReadySC” job training program, which provides customized training for new and expanding businesses and industries.

Scholarships and Tuition Aid

$318 million to fully fund LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows Scholarships through the Lottery for the 6th year in a row.

$51 million in the Lottery for Tuition Assistance (LTAP)

$60 million for Needs-Based Grants which goes to help the most in need college students ($40 million increase)

$20 million for Tuition Grants ($10 million increase)

Department of Commerce

$3.7 million for the Deal Closing Fund to continue recruiting new jobs and industry.

Forestry Commission

$1 million for firefighting equipment.

Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

$15 million for Destination Specific Marketing.

$5 million for tourism advertising grants. This is advertising that attracts and retains out-of-state dollars to multiple areas of the state.

$1.1 million for the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions.

Department of Corrections

$90 million in flexibility from CARES Act funds for institution upgrades for the safety of the public, officers, and inmates.

$4.7 million for law enforcement & correctional officers retention.

$2 million for medical staffing retention.

$4.5 million in funds for contract nursing.

Probation, Pardon, and Parole Services

$2 million for law enforcement retention.

$500,000 for the Mental Health Program.

This Program is aimed to 1) improve access to standardized screening and assessment tools; 2) create collaborative comprehensive case management plans that address identified needs, and 3) coordinate wraparound services that establish stability for offenders living with mental illness.

State Law Enforcement Division

$1.4 million for law enforcement STEP increases.

$250,000 for law enforcement PTSD needs

Department of Public Safety

$2 million for law enforcement STEP increases.

$750,000 for agency vehicle rotation.

$600,000 for communication equipment replacement.

Department of Natural Resources

$1.3 million for law enforcement STEP increases and overtime needs.

$1.6 million for Wildlife Management Areas.

Conservation Bank

$2 million in additional funds for Conservation Grants.

Transportation and Regulatory

$683,142 for funding of the State Broadband Office.

Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation

$850,000 for Urban Search and Rescue. Funds will replace equipment that is now over 15 years old and communication technology that is no longer viable.

$250,000 for FAST Program/PTSDTreatment for firefighters through State Fire.

$3.7 million for Firefighter Cancer Healthcare Benefits Plan in accordance with Act 168 of 2020.

Election Commission

$1.4 million for state matching funds for 2020 Help America Vote Act Grants.

The pandemic complicated and challenged this budget in many ways, so I extend my gratitude to the Ways and Means Committee and staff for all their hard work and dedication. Once we have a better understanding of what the state tax revenue looks like for this year, I will update you on how that money will be used.

Weekly COVID-19 Update

South Carolina is in phase 1B of the vaccination process. Want to know if you qualify for a vaccine? Visit https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine.

26.4% of South Carolina citizens have started the vaccination process. 14.2% are fully vaccinated.

1,629,777 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents.

The recovery rate in SC from COVID-19 is 97.4%. *This is the % of SC COVID-19 patients who are estimated to have recovered from COVID-19 symptoms. Source: https://scdhec.gov/covid19/south-carolina-county-level-data-covid-19*

Want to see how our area is doing in the fight against COVID-19? Visit the interactive Vaccine Dashboard by following this link, https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccination-dashboard.

*Numbers updated March 24th.

COVID-19 Resources and Helplines

⁃ DHEC Care Line: 1-855-472-3432

⁃ COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line: 1-866-365-8110

⁃ Find a vaccine location near you here: https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov

⁃ Information about qualifying for SBA loans: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

⁃ Mental health/substance abuse services related to COVID-19: 1-844-724-6737

⁃ For other COVID-19 resources, visit the Accelerate SC website: https://accelerate.sc.gov

⁃ To see if you may qualify for unemployment, visit: https://dew.sc.gov

⁃ For updates from the Governor, visit https://governor.sc.gov

Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and please feel free to contact me via email at chiphuggins@schouse.gov or my 24-hour phone line at 803-331-8468.