As I mentioned in this space last month, the House takes up the state budget during the month of March each year. It is typically one of the busiest and most important weeks of a legislative session.

This year was no exception. I am proud to report that I voted in favor of the House of Representatives’ State Budget which passed by a vote of 108-7. Not only am I proud of the hard work and effort that went into creating this budget, but I am proud to report that the budget passed second reading in record timing of just one day.

The ability of this budget to move through the House with few amendments is evidence of solid and sound fiscal policy that adequately funds the needs of our state while making South Carolina a better place to live, work, or own a business.

The 2022-2023 State Budget is unique from those of previous years because of the amount of surplus funds in our state, from years of wise budgeting and policy and an influx of federal ARPA funds and infrastructure money.

Taking this into consideration, we built the budget on a foundation of four basic pillars, which are present throughout: Reducing taxes, Roads, Reserves, and Raises for teachers, law enforcement, first responders, and state employees.

The House’s budget is balanced, with conservative financial management practices, and a low tax debt burden. This budget grows our revenue and reserves. A few of the highlights from this year’s House budget include bettering our education system and infrastructure, and improving the lives of our veterans, state employees, teachers, law enforcement, and taxpayers.

The budget now is on its way to the Senate, where changes are possible.

For a full breakdown of everything in this year’s budget or to find specific dollar numbers or line items, I encourage you to visit the House Ways and Means webpage at scstatehouse.gov.

One of our priorities this year (and every year) is to make sure that our K-12 schools and institutions of higher learning are fully prepared to provide the best possible education and resources possible for our students and teachers. This year’s budget provides K-12 schools over $12 billion in funding next year, including raising the S.C. starting salary to $40,000 and the average teacher salary to $52,604.

This budget has a profound dedication to improving, expanding, widening, and expediting infrastructure in our state once and for all. With the passage of this bill, our highways and interstates, bridges, water and sewer, and broadband infrastructure will be years ahead of neighboring states. The House Budget includes allocating $1 billion towards South Carolina’s roads, accelerating funding to accelerate completion of interstate highway projects and local projects by giving $250 million to the County Transportation Funds, with a focus on secondary and low volume primary roads.

The budget also funds the assessment and improvement of infrastructure needed to bring new water and sewer opportunities to areas facing challenges in providing safe water.

Since Republicans took over the House, South Carolina has seen more than $54 billion in tax cuts. This fiscal year alone, in a $10.8 billion budget, over $3 billion has been returned to taxpayers. That represents a return of one-third of general fund revenues to South Carolina citizens through individual income tax cuts, small business tax cuts, corporate income tax cuts, food tax elimination, and property tax relief.

The Budget we passed funds the income tax relief I covered last month, including eliminating taxes on military retirement as well as raising salaries for law enforcement and correction officers and all state employees. Among other important priorities, the Budget includes $2.8 million to fund the Election Integrity and Compliance Auditor Program, $1.2 million for election security funding, and $98 million for the conservation of our state’s land and natural resources.

In closing, I have to brag on my oldest child Reedy, who last month was elected President of the Student Body of the University of South Carolina – to say we are proud is simply not enough.

It is an honor to serve you in the S.C. House of Representatives. Please do not hesitate to call upon me here or in Columbia.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov