BRIEFS: Agreement on budget; Trump’s testy tweet; Pension dodge

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House, Senate to meet June 6 to consider budget compromise

Staff reports  |  House and Senate conferees finished negotiations on a compromise $8 billion budget for state taxes just an hour before June 1 arrived.  Highlights are in public education, pension reform and health costs.  Of particular interest:

K-12 education.  Conferees agreed to raise the base student cost for South Carolina’s K-12 students to $2,425 for 2017-18 for a total of $1.749 billion.  That’s $233 million more than the original House budget but $7.2 million less than the Senate version of the budget.  However, the total amount for K-12 education is well below the $2,894 base student funding required by state law, meaning legislators shortchanged K-12 education $338 million for the coming year. The budget includes about $29 million more to replace aging school buses.

Pension reform.  The conference report calls for an additional $154 million in state spending to shore up and reform a failing pension system that is short more than $21 billion.

Medicaid.  The state added $45.4 million to the budget to keep things the same.  The increase will keep up with rising costs.

Higher education.  The state’s public colleges, universities and technical colleges saw an increase in $11.4 million spending.  A $480 million bond bill, which is not part of the budget, remains on the table for next year.

No employee pay raises.   Because there wasn’t a surplus this year, state employees who earn less than $50,000 a year won’t get a one-time bonus that the Senate sought.  But the budget includes $25.5 million more to cover increased employee health costs.

Testy presidential tweet irks some in South Carolina

Staff reports  |  A testy tweet by President Donald Trump about trade with Germany has irritated an ally in Europe and supporters in South Carolina.

At 6:40 a.m. May 30, Trump griped about trade with Germany, complaining that the U.S. has “a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military.  Very bad for U.S.  This will change.”

Maybe Trump should have done more homework about the nation’s business relationship of Germany, which has 136 businesses in South Carolina’s Upstate.   In fact, Germany provides 13 percent of the investment recruited by the state.

Maybe he should have known that Germany is South Carolina’s second top export market, thanks in large part to all of those BMWs made in Greer.   That market is one-eighth of everything exported from the state and is worth export sales of about $3.7 billion a year, according to the state Department of Commerce.

Maybe he should have thanked Germany for the business, instead of poking Germans in the eye.  And that point wasn’t lost on Ted Pitts, a former state representative who heads the state Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s what he told the press, as reported by CBS:  “This is one of those cases where the president should have gotten his facts first before he went on attack because it’s just wrong… We need to build stronger relationships with German companies who have made a huge impact on South Carolina and its people.”

Nice dodge

Staff reports  |  What was supposed to be an example of good governance in the Statehouse, has turned into yet another example of state legislators passing the buck.

Last month, the General Assembly voted to plug $150 million into the state’s ailing pension fund. The fund was underfunded, underperforming, and had been poorly focused to take advantage of a more robust stock market.

So, the $150 million addition was a good thing? Well … sort of. It turns out that the legislature only footed half the bill, and would require cities and counties to cover their half which goes to cover school teachers, cops and the like, who are covered under the state pension plan.


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