- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 17, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on the South Carolina Senate Budget Debate (all times local):

4:00 p.m.

The budget debate in the Senate turns to teacher salaries for nearly two hours.

Republican Sen. Greg Hembree of North Myrtle Beach introduced a proposal into budget discussions Wednesday that would provide a 5% cost of living raise to teachers and increase the minimum starting teacher pay from $32,000 to $33,600.

The plan adopted by the Senate Finance Committee increased the minimum starting teacher salary by $3,000 to $35,000 with a minimum of a 4% pay increase.

Lawmakers who support the finance committee’s plan said that attracting teachers and retaining them was the purpose of the budgetary proposal and reducing the starting pay from what is outlined in the Senate’s current plan would not help those efforts.

The Senate voted to reject the amendment, 30-15.


12:00 p.m.

South Carolina lawmakers are in recess after a little under two hours of recapping key items in the state’s nearly $9 billion spending plan.

Members of the Senate started the day Wednesday by providing an overview of each section of the budget including funding provisions for K-12 education, higher education and criminal justice.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman of Florence said this year’s budget displays their commitment in the classroom and requested that his fellow lawmakers debate the budget in a “spirit of congeniality.”

President of the Senate Harvey Peeler of Gaffney says the budget is a priority list for the state of South Carolina.

Lawmakers will continue discussions this afternoon.


10:50 a.m.

A South Carolina senator says he plans to introduce a provision into this year’s $9 billion spending plan that would ban onshore infrastructure associated with drilling and seismic testing for oil and gas off the South Carolina coast.

Republican Sen. Chip Campsen introduced the plan during a news conference Wednesday morning and said offshore drilling doesn’t make economic sense and could threaten the future of tourism in the state. Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson and both Republican and Senate lawmakers were also in attendance.

The provision would prevent the Department of Health and Environmental Control or local government entities to use any funds to approve licenses or permits associated with offshore drilling for oil or gas or for seismic testing.


7:45 a.m.

The South Carolina Senate will begin their discussions on how the state should spend its nearly $9 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Lawmakers will begin their debate Wednesday on the Senate floor.

The budget, approved by the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month, allows for nearly $1 billion more in spending than the last budget.

Senators say this year’s priorities include providing salary increases for teachers, state workers and judicial department employees.

The plan includes allocating $159 million toward increasing the minimum teacher salary and $41 million to cover a 2% cost of living pay raise for state workers.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman commended the House for sending over what he called one of the best budgets he has seen in a long time.

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