Familiar tax cuts and new bonuses feature in SC governor’s budget

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC / AP) – Gov. Henry McMaster’s suggestion on how South Carolina is spending billions more contains familiar demands he hasn’t had in his five years in office, like reducing income taxes.

McMaster unveiled his executive budget and ideas on spending billions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds at a press conference at the Statehouse on Monday afternoon.

“The $ 2.4 billion in ARPA funds along with the nearly $ 3 billion in excess income generated by South Carolina’s booming economy – presents us with a unique opportunity, an opportunity that we cannot. allow us to waste, ”McMaster wrote in a letter to the General Assembly. “If we take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity, by making significant, bold and transformative investments in education, infrastructure, workforce and economic development, South Carolina will prosper for generations to come. “

The General Assembly controls what is spent, but lawmakers have a good relationship with the governor.

At the top of McMaster’s budget is cutting the income tax rate from 7% to 6% over five years, costing $ 177 million a year.

The governor called on the General Assembly to set aside $ 500 million in the state’s “rainy days” reserve fund, a move that would double the size of the fund. McMaster’s office says the state’s debt has been cut in half since he took office and the state now has the lowest debt in state history.

“With the additional $ 500 million added to South Carolina’s rainy day reserve fund, the state will now have 10 percent of the state’s general fund budget in reserve,” the spokesperson said. word of McMaster, Brandon Charochak.

McMaster also released its recommendations to spend some $ 2.5 billion in ARPA funds.

The two largest expenditures would send $ 500 million for rural water and sewage infrastructure and an additional $ 400 million for broadband access and expansion.

But he also wants to set aside $ 360 million to complete the widening of I-26 between Columbia and Charleston.

“This targeted investment will accelerate this high priority project on one of the state’s busiest highways by at least six years,” said McMaster. “Accelerating the schedule for this critical project will support the demand created by continued population and economic growth, particularly growth related to record volume at South Carolina ports, which has already increased traffic on this portion of the Interstate.” 26 to 22 million vehicles per year. “

McMaster recommended an additional $ 100 million for a new lab for the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC said the average useful life of a public health laboratory is around 40 years, McMaster said.

“The current structure is past its expected useful life and it is one of the oldest in the country,” he said. “Based on the increased demand for testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency is concerned that the main building of the state health and environment laboratory may no longer be able to respond to technological advances, modern laboratory practices and high-tech test systems. “

Its recommendations also include $ 250 million for the State Unemployment Trust Fund for Small Business Assistance and $ 50 million for tourism revival initiatives.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Copyright 2022 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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