The Senate closed out the legislative session with some incredibly good news with regards to transportation and the state budget.
Late in the session, the House and Senate reached a deal on a transportation funding plan that allows for up to $1.17 billion in new road funding over the next decade.
Coming into the legislative session, this was obviously a big priority for the Senate Republican Caucus, because we recognize how important road funding is for a whole host of reasons – economic development, public safety and quality of life among them.
Over the next ten years, the plan will:
· Provide $250 million worth of one-time state and federal money, solely for bridge replacement and rehabilitation
· Redirect at least $420 million of vehicle sales tax into a fund dedicated to highway, road, and bridge maintenance, construction and repair.
· Bond up to $500 million dedicated to bridge replacement, rehabilitation projects, and expansion and improvements to existing mainline interstates.
Governor Haley has already signed the bill, and we’re pleased to have her support on this plan.
When it comes to the budget, education was a top priority for the Caucus.
For the first time ever, we allowed for the formation of scholarship granting organizations, which can receive private donations for providing school choice to special needs students. The donations made are eligible for a tax credit of up to 60 percent of the donor’s income tax liability.
In addition, we provided funds for 285 new school buses, expanded 4k education for at-risk children, and implemented the new “Read to Succeed” program to focus on early reading skills.
Some of the other highlights included:
· Defeating the Obamacare Medicaid expansion
· Providing $16 million to the Department of Commerce for its deal-closing fund
· Paid for 30 new Highway Patrol officers
Another of our top agenda items is very close to final passage. The Department of Administration bill moves the administrative functions of government to a newly created Department of Administration. The Department will include human resources, general services, and an executive budget and strategic planning office. It gets rid of the antiquated Budget and Control Board that prevented accountability in much of government.
A strong ethics bill remains on the Senate calendar, and is first in line to be debated again next year. A comprehensive proposal for road funding, and a spending caps bill also remain top priorities for next year, in the second half of our legislative session.
I look forward to continuing to serve you in the state Senate. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.