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Legislators pave way for budget approval

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COLUMBIA — Legislators on Tuesday approved a compromise that could fund $800 million in road and bridge work across South Carolina, paving the way for agreement on the overall budget for 2013-14.

The infrastructure agreement was approved 95-11 in the House and 35-5 in the Senate, receiving the necessary super-majority votes. It had to be put in a measure separate from the budget to direct how the money would be spent.

The plan designates up to $141 million in state taxes toward infrastructure in 2013-14. It calls for $50 million to go to the State Infrastructure Bank to fund major projects through borrowing. Up to $50 million from the current year’s surplus would go toward bridge repair. And $41 million from the state sales tax on vehicles would shift to the Department of Transportation for repairing secondary roads, representing half of the money that the tax – capped at $300 per vehicle – puts in the general fund.

Borrowing and federal matching money could push total spending for road and bridge work to $800 million.

Both chambers adjourned after the votes. They return Wednesday to take up the budget compromise worked out by a panel of House and Senate members late Monday after a full day of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Legislative leaders touted increases in education. The spending plan for more than $6 billion in state taxes includes $26 million to expand full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten, an additional $23 million for textbooks and other instructional materials, and $12 million for additional enrollment in charter schools.

It increases the so-called base student cost – money that primarily funds salaries – to $2,101, an increase of $89 per student. That required an additional $77 million. But Democrats point out that the state would have to spend hundreds of millions more to meet the funding levels called for by a 36-year-old state law that set the formulas for annual calculations.

Legislators came back to Columbia this week to finish their work on the state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The total proposed budget for 2013-14 is more than $22 billion when counting all revenue sources and designations, including federal money, agency fees, grants and reserves.


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