I hope you all are doing well and staying cool as we come into the month of July. As your State Representative for Newberry County, it is my honor to update you on what’s been going on in the House, now that the special budget session has come to a close.
Overall, the General Assembly cut about $2.3 billion from the state budget. Some special reforms in this year’s budget include a one percent salary increase for teachers, an increase in teacher starting salary from $30,000 to $32,000, and $2 million for school resource officers. The budget also includes $12 million for school buses, and all 1995 fire-prone buses will be off the road by the start of school this August.
There is $3 million for critical safety upgrades at the Department of Corrections, in the wake of a deadly prison riot in Lee County. The General Assembly also increased autism provider rates from $17/hour to $30/hour, and put $11 million more toward addressing the opioid epidemic. After going through conference committee with the Senate, the overall budget didn’t come out exactly the way we wanted, but I applaud my colleagues in the General Assembly for cutting government spending while putting taxpayer dollars toward well-needed efforts.
On Thursday, the legislature also passed a bill to temporarily reduce SCE&G customer rates by 15 percent, saving the average customer about $27 every month. The reduction extends to electricity purchased between April 1 and mid-December of this year. The Public Service Commission is in charge of actually carrying out the rate reduction, as well as any necessary bill credits.
As a reminder, Gov. Henry McMaster signed our anti-spoofing bill into law at the Newberry Opera House on June 1. If you receive a call from what looks like a South Carolina number, but isn’t actually in-state, call the Office of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-922-1594. The office will work to track down the number, and if prosecution is warranted, the Attorney General has the power to go after them. But the only way to stop these calls is to report them.
As always, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the South Carolina House of Representatives, and I urge you to contact me if I can be of any assistance. In the meantime, stay cool, stay safe, and Happy Independence Day!
Rick Martin is the State Representative for District 40 - Newberry County.