S.C. state employees are poised to get their largest pay raise in a decade.
Legislators on a joint House-Senate budget panel approved a 3.25 percent hike Saturday for state employees as part of the state budget that takes effect July 1.
But that increase is not enough, said the head of the S.C. State Employees Association.
“As a result of what’s happened today, employees will have a loss of vigor,” said Carlton Washington, executive director of the Employees Association.
Washington and Richland County state senators had pushed for a 5 percent pay hike earlier this legislative session. The S.C. House passed a 2 percent increase in its version of the state budget, and the Senate approved a 4 percent hike.
The 3.25 percent increase approved Saturday by House and Senate budget negotiators was a compromise, said Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. Leatherman noted the state also will pick up all of the increased cost of state workers’ health insurance premiums.
However, state employees will have to pay more toward their retirement, paying an additional 0.5 percent of their salaries for their pensions.
In the wake of the Great Recession, state employees have not received a pay raise in four of the past seven years. Last year, state employees who made less than $100,000 received a one-time $800 bonus.
In a year when lawmakers had an added $1.2 billion to spend because of the recovering economy, getting only a 3.25 percent pay hike is “going to deflate employees,” Washington said.
But legislators divided that added money among a number of needs, including spending more than $300 million of the extra money on education, more than $250 million for road repairs and about $150 million for flood-related costs, including some road repairs.
If approved next week by the House and Senate, about 61,000 state employees would be eligible for the pay increase, according to the S.C. Department of Administration. About 21,000 of those employees work in Richland County. Another 2,100 work in Lexington County.
State employees paid with “other” funds and federal money – including tuition money at state colleges and universities or fees at the Department of Environmental Control and other agencies – also would be eligible for the raise.
Legislators also approved a 2 percent pay increase for teachers and another 2 percent boost in the pay teachers get based on their experience.
Where the money will go
Lawmakers on a House-Senate panel working out differences in competing versions of the state budget approved roughly $7.5 billion in general fund spending Saturday. The budget includes:
▪ More than $300 million in added money for public schools, including $217.6 million to increase the per-student money that schools get to $2,350 a student. Despite that increase, per-student funding remains more than $500 million short of the amount that state law says schools should get.
▪ More than $200 million in added money for road repairs, including money that would be bonded through the S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank, if that proposal passes this year
▪ $50 million more to counties for road repairs
▪ $72 million to help state and local governments match federal flood-recovery money, including $12 million for road repairs
▪ $40 million for grants to farmers whose crops were damaged during October’s flooding
▪ $37 million for the Transportation Department to pay for road repairs related to October’s flooding
▪ $222.6 million for the local government fund, money that goes to cities and counties to perform services for the state. While up $10.6 million from last year, that funding is about $90 million less than state law says local governments should get.
▪ An additional $129 million for the Health and Human Services Department to offset annual expenses that agency has been paying for with savings
▪ $30 million for beach renourishment along the coast
▪ $17 million more for the Department of Commerce’s deal-closing fund, used to entice companies to move to the state
▪ $10 million for the Medical University of South Carolina children’s hospital in Charleston
▪ $4 million for the African-American history museum in Charleston
▪ $5 million more for repairs to National Guard armories
▪ $2.4 million for body cameras for police officers
SC employee pay raises
State employees did not get any pay increases during four of the past 10 years. A look at the pay hikes they did get, year by year:
2016-17: 3.25 percent
2015-16: $800 one-time bonus for those making make less than $100,000
2014-15: 2 percent
2013-14: 0 percent
2012-13: 3 percent
2011-12: 0 percent
2010-11: 0 percent
2009-10: 0 percent
2008-09: 1 percent
2007-08: 3 percent
2006-07: 3 percent