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Senate Finance budget plan includes 4K expansion
Question of the Day
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Senate Finance Committee has advanced a budget proposal that expands 4-year-old kindergarten and gives legislators a raise.
The committee voted 16-3 late Wednesday on a $7 billion spending plan for state taxes that provides legislators another $1,000 monthly for in-district travel expenses, doubling that yearly stipend to $24,000 for each of the Legislature’s 170 members.
Legislators’ annual salary is $10,400. They also get paid mileage for traveling to Columbia.
The full Senate is expected to start debating the budget plan next Tuesday.
It provides an additional $24.5 million to expand full-day 4-year-old kindergarten to 14 more districts. The House’s budget contains no expansion, but rather maintains the state-paid program for at-risk 4-year-olds in 51 districts. Like the House plan, the Senate Finance package also puts nearly $30 million toward reading coaches in elementary school.
Those are two components of a bill the Senate passed earlier this month that aims to boost students’ chances of success through expansion of 4K and early intervention in reading.
“I think that’s a bright and shining star of this budget,” said Peeler, sponsor of the “Read to Succeed” bill.
Senate Finance’s plan provides $4.5 million more for school buses than the House, for $17.5 million.
It also restores more money to public colleges. The House plan cut a total of $31 million from the state’s designations to public colleges, compared to the current budget, said Courson, chairman of the Finance subcommittee over higher education. His panel’s recommendations restored about $25 million of that.
“We’ve got good news but not quite as good as we’d like,” he said.
The Senate Finance plan follows the House proposal to provide state employees a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise and cover the rising cost of their health care premiums. The latter costs about $57 million. Employees would see a slight rise in their out-of-pocket expenses through co-pays and deductibles.
“That’s a pretty good deal,” Leatherman said. “Employees tell me if you’ve got to choose between taking care of my health premiums and a pay raise, they tell me to take care of health premiums.”
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