S.C. Lawmakers Went Back To Work

SCE&G/Dominion merger at the top of the to-do list

Patrick Gentry
January 09, 2018 - 5:38 pm

Legislators return to Columbia Tuesday for the first time since adjourning last May.

The House and Senate will gavel back into the second of their two-year session. Top issues will include how to move forward after a nuclear project’s bankruptcy left ratepayers on the hook for billions in debt. Front and center will be the 2007 law that allows utilities to keep charging customers for the project. Lawmakers will likely also debate whether or not state-owned utility Santee Cooper should be sold to pay back some of its debt.

— One of the first issues, though, will be the governor’s previous veto of using lottery surplus revenue to pay for new school buses. Gov. Henry McMaster has stood on principle — saying leftover lottery money promised for scholarships should not be used. But legislative budgetwriters say the law establishing the lottery does require some funds go towards vehicle purchases. The governor has gotten his share of negative press since the veto after several older buses caught fire in the ensuing months, including one in Anderson County last week.

— Gov. McMaster called on lawmakers Monday to cut income taxes by one percentage point for all income brackets. The governor proposed cutting $140 million in income taxes next fiscal year as part of a budget plan presented to reporters. The proposal would then reduce taxes by 1.0 percentage point over five years for each income bracket, reducing the highest rate from 6 to 5 percent. McMaster presented the cuts as necessary given the plan approved by Congress last month that eliminates a federal tax deduction for state income taxes.

— Former State Rep. Joe Ellis Brown, D-Hopkins, passed away on Sunday. The former high school principal and Midlands legislator had served in the South Carolina House for 22 years. He led the Legislative Black Caucus and the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee during his time there. He was 84 years old.

— The largest group representing South Carolina’s businesses said Monday it wants action on taxes, workforce, and the opioids crisis. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce released its “Competitiveness Agenda” in a press conference. CEO Ted Pitts, a former legislator himself, said he believes the state’s relatively high starting income tax and business property taxes can hurt the state in business recruitment efforts. The group also pushed for a better handling of a rising number of opioid overdoses, saying it has begun affecting business in the state.

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