The South Carolina General Assembly returns to Columbia on Tuesday to consider nearly $53 million in local projects that Gov. Henry McMaster wants from the $13.8 billion state budget.
All of the money was provided by lawmakers for local causes, such as $25 million to fund a quantum computing facility in Columbia, $7 million for a cultural welcome center in Orangeburg, and $500,000 to improve Summerville High School’s stadium.
McMaster allowed projects where lawmakers detailed who got the money and where it went.
“Without adequate context, description, rationale or information about the project and how the recipient intends to spend the funds, the public cannot assess the value of earmarking,” McMaster wrote in his veto on Wednesday.
Some other items McMaster also cut from the budget, which goes into effect July 1, were $5 million for a park in Myrtle Beach, $2 million for a community center in West Orangeburg, and $750,000 for a library in Turbeville.
Overall, McMaster filed 73 vetoes. Ten were policies that did not involve money and 29 were budget lines that spent $1 — procedural steps for the House and Senate to negotiate a final spending plan.
The General Assembly meets on Tuesday. Overriding any of the governor’s vetoes requires a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate. There were few votes against the budget when lawmakers approved it earlier this month.
McMaster again said that instead of giving lawmakers the power to control money for local projects, it should be put into a pot for a public grants process and awarded on merit, with the whole system open to transparency.
The state’s $13.8 billion budget for fiscal 2022-23 allocates $1 billion to send hundreds of dollars in rebates to many South Carolina taxpayers. It’s also spending $600 million to lower the state’s top income tax rate from 7% to 6.5% and combine other rates to 3%. Eventually, lawmakers plan to lower the top rate to 6%.
The spending plan also raises the minimum salary for teachers from $36,000 to $40,000, invests an additional $1 billion in road repairs and upgrades, and gives state employees a 3% pay rise and a $1,500 bonus. The budget also increases a range of salaries for state law enforcement and provides about $1 billion if this is the year the economy falters.
McMaster commended lawmakers for most of the budget and thanked them for including more than 250 of their proposals in the final spending plan.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.