South Carolina's big budget surplus all dried up

By: Gene Petriello Email
By: Gene Petriello Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock; October 7, 2008

AIKEN CTY, S.C. --- South Carolina has about a $7 billion budget. Just about a year ago, Senator Shane Massey says the state had about a billion dollars extra. But that was all spent and the state is facing some big budget cuts.

It's not just lawmakers crunching numbers, PTA mom of four Karen Skiff is also worried about money.

"They can't cut our budgets anymore," says Karen. "They've been cut. We need to educate our kids." Karen, the Aiken Elementary PTA Treasurer says with a tough economy now, she's worried education will take a budget hit.

"Because people don't have as much disposable income as they did," says Karen. This, after the school did pretty well earlier this year in generating money in the PTA.

But, South Carolina is looking at a big shortfall as well. They're facing a $250 million revenue shortfall.

"This is a direct result of irresponsible spending in Columbia for the past few years," says Sen. Shane Massey.

Senator Massey says last year, the state had about a billion dollar surplus. But, all of that money was spent. With the $250 million shortfall, if that money was there, it could be used to plug up the problem and there would still be $750 million left over.

"Over the last 3-4 years, spending in South Carolina has increased by over 40%," says Sen. Massey. "I don't know anybody who's personal income has increased by over 40% in 3 years."

"My hope is they don't cut anything, period," says Karen. "I don't think that's going to be the case."

"Some predictions are around 10% cuts, that's a pretty size-able cut," says Sen. Massey.

In those cuts, education could be in the mix.

"No, they can't let that happen. They cannot let that happen. This is our future. If we don't educate our kids, what do we have? Nothing," says Karen.

Sen. Massey says not all of the money from the surplus was spend on bad things. In fact, some of the money did go towards new school buses in the state.

If the state proposes a 4% or higher budget, lawmakers could be called back to session before November 1st. That is something expected to happen this week. Senator Massey says he could be back in Columbia this week or next.

He says, if the lawmakers are called back, it would cost somewhere around $50,000. But, he says, if he is called back, he will not accept the money. He says, that is because this is a problem that everyone needs to fight together.

The State of South Carolina's total budget is around $7 billion. About half of those general fund appropriations goes to K-12 and Higher Education.


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