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PROPOSED BUDGET: Governor plans investments in future of South Carolina using budget surplus and federal funds

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COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — With $2.4 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government combined with almost $3 billion in surplus revenue generated by the state’s economy, Governor Henry McMaster says South Carolina is in a unique position to make big investments in the state.

Monday afternoon, he revealed his executive budget for the next fiscal year as well as suggestions on how to spend those federal dollars.

While the governor’s budget featured a lot of spending, he began by mentioning the money that will not be spent. McMaster proposed $500 million for the state’s rainy day fund.

“We will double the size of our reserves and be prepared for any future economic uncertainties should they arise,” the governor said.

He also suggested tackling another problem in the state by proposing a 1 percent rate reduction over five years for all personal income tax brackets.

“As is noted often, South Carolina has the highest personal income tax in the southeast and 12th highest in the nation which is not good for attracting and supporting business,” McMaster said. “This is unacceptable. It makes South Carolina less competitive for new jobs and capital investments.”

When it comes to investments, the governor proposed using a combination of federal funds and the state surplus revenue for Department of Transportation infrastructure projects.

“We know that South Carolina must have the workforce, infrastructure, intellectual capital, environmental assets and quality of life to compete, win and achieve maximum prosperity for our people,” McMaster said.

McMaster spoke about increasing the state minimum teacher salary but also called for increased accountability when it comes to spending by school districts.

“I think most South Carolinians want the money to be spent on teachers,” he said. “They don’t want the money to be spent on administration costs or top-heavy administration.”

The governor’s education spending plan includes plans to recruit new bus drivers, scholarships for technical colleges, freezing in-state college tuition and financial assistance for college students.

The governor also highlighted projects that will improve rural water and sewer systems, make broadband internet more widely available, help small businesses recover and provide more funding for law enforcement and public safety.

“This is the time to invest. That’s why this is such an important time,” McMaster said. “We have an opportunity to take a big step forward but we have to do it right. If we go off the wrong side of the bridge on this, we won’t have another chance.”

A part of the governor’s budget that relates to Columbia is the proposal of a new DHEC public health laboratory.  The current structure is one of the oldest in the country and the budget calls for $100 million of federal funds to construct a new facility.