COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina state senators approved $488 million in budget cuts Thursday that carve into health care and college spending plans.
The 60-page bill won key approval in the Senate on a voice vote and agreement for a final OK Friday that will send the bill to Gov. Mark Sanford. The House approved it Tuesday with a 109-3 vote.
Health care-related programs lose $160 million and universities and technical colleges give up $123 million out of a $7 billion state spending plan that fell short as soon as it took effect in July when state sales tax collections stalled.
The plan mostly spares spending on Medicaid programs for the state's poorest children, but other children did not fare so well. For instance, $3.3 million is cut from care for children with autism.
Colleges will lose more than 14 percent of their state funding and more than $10 million aimed at spurring research at Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina. The universities also lose cash for new high-speed data networks. And Clemson gives up $1 million - half of what the state had put up for an automotive research facility in Greenville with ties to BMW.
"During a tough year, no cut is easy," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said.
Leatherman, like the House's chief budget writer, persuaded fellow lawmakers not to stray from cuts worked out during the past week. He warned that tinkering with the deal raised the likelihood a state financial oversight board would meet Thursday and order across-the-board cuts that ultimately could cost public schools money and teachers their jobs.
In a debate that lasted more than three hours, the Senate voted on just one amendment. It failed with a 37-6 vote. Authors scrapped a handful of other amendments, including a proposal to shorten the legislative session next year and save taxpayers at least $1 million.
The Legislature plans to return on Oct. 31 if needed to take up any vetoes Sanford issues.