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Weekly Update - March 14, 2020

Coronavirus Update Governor Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency to enhance the state’s response to the coronavirus. Citing the fact that Kershaw and Lancaster counties are the only current areas in the state where there is evidence of community spread of the virus, Governor McMaster's order will also direct that schools in those counties will be closed for a period of 14 days. It is important to stay calm and protect yourself against this virus by practicing good hygiene, washing your hands, and covering your cough. If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, please get screened (see below) and follow the advice of health care experts. MUSC Health has added COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, to the list of conditions you can be screened through virtual care. Anyone in South Carolina who has COVID-19-like symptoms can use the online system for free by using the promo code COVID19.  For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in S.C., please visit https://www.scdhec.gov/covid19. Budget Week After months of working with Governor McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate I joined my House colleagues to pass the 2020-2021 fiscal year General Appropriation Bill by a vote of 120-2—an overwhelming bi-partisan consensus. This year, we focused our budget on the 4 R’s: relief for taxpayers, building up our reserves, expediting our road projects, and giving raises to those who need it most.  We worked closely with Gov. McMaster to include 325 of his recommendations in our budget process—an all-time record. This includes expanding 4-K education, providing permanent tax reform and relief, and investing in our state’s teachers.  When we began assembling this budget, it was important to me that it be built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend. The 4 R’s: Relief

  • $128 million will be refunded directly to taxpayers in an income tax credit ($100 per tax return)

  • $120 million is devoted to Gov. McMaster’s recommendation to lower the income tax rate and provide permanent income tax relief.

Reserves

  • $122 million has been added to our General Reserves and $14 million to our Capital Reserves.

  • $50 million is saved in a special reserve account to be used for future natural disasters.

Roads

  • $77 million is budgeted for immediate, accelerated, and expanded road repairs on shovel-ready projects for farm to market roads in every county. What would have taken two years to complete will be completed in one year.

  • $23 million will be sent directly to counties ($500,000 per county) to be used for repairs and maintenance of state-maintained roads.

Raises

  • $3,000 per teacher for an across-the-board pay raise to our teachers. This will bring the average teacher pay above the Southeastern average and will not require any local matching funds from school districts.

  • $40 million is budgeted to provide merit-based pay raises for state employees.

  • $16 million is devoted to pay raises for our Highway Patrol, SLED and other law enforcement officers. We must do more to retain talented troopers and officers who put their lives on the line every day.

Other priorities:

  • $138 million is provided for the Department of Corrections to fund safety upgrades, new infrastructure and update key controls systems.

  • $165 million is used to ensure college tuition rates are frozen so that college is more affordable for in-state students.

  • $57 million is budgeted to expand 4k and provide every lower-income, four-year-old child the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten at the public, private, parochial, or religious institution of their parents’ choosing.

  • $10 million is budgeted to provide state matching funds for federal FEMA flood relief (from Hurricane Dorian).

  • $47 million is spent to match a $94 million federal investment for two new Veterans Affairs Nursing Homes in the state.


Helpful Tip (for your friends) S.C. drivers with a suspended license may be able to reduce or clear their suspension during Amnesty Week from March 16-20. To participate, eligible drivers must bring a completed application to an SCDMV location during the week. Check your eligibility and find the application here.

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PAID FOR BY RANDY LIGON FOR STATE HOUSE