Originally created 01/14/02

Delay forecast for spending plan



COLUMBIA - College students may have to wait until summer to find out about scholarships supported by the lottery.

Although the lottery bill was passed in June, the spending plan remained tied up in negotiations between the House and Senate when the session ended.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges and Republican House and Senate leaders say they would like to settle the issue early in the year. The Senate agreed last week to take up the lottery spending legislation as early as Jan. 23.

But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the legislation could end up in the state budget this year, which traditionally is not approved until the first week in June.

If negotiations become bogged down, Mr. Harrell said, the House would make the lottery spending plan part of the state budget, where there would be less opportunity to block its passage.

House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, said many interests are still competing for lottery funds.

"The sooner the better, but we are a long way off from knowing how this will work out," he said. "The House passed a lottery appropriations bill last year. That bill is pending in a Senate committee. If the Senate does not pass a bill, we will put the lottery plan in the appropriations bill."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said there is no broad agreement on how to spend the lottery profits. He nonetheless predicted quick action in the Senate on the legislation.

"We should be finished long before the appropriations bill is out," Mr. Leatherman said.

Mr. Hodges has proposed a spending plan that includes full tuition at most state universities and technical colleges; boosts the state's top academic scholarship to $7,000 from $5,000; and provides millions of dollars to Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina to endow research professorships.

Although many agree on those priorities, differences remain that could block early passage of the legislation, Mr. Harrell said.

The governor and the Republican leaders in the House can't even agree on how much money the lottery likely will produce in its first 18 months of operations.