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SC state employees get raise in proposed House budget. But it’s not as large as last year

State employees are slated to receive a $1,000 pay increase or 1.5% raise, whichever is greater, under the proposed House Ways and Means budget.

Under the plan sent to the full S.C. House on Wednesday, state employees who make $66,667 or less, would receive a $1,000 raise. For those making more, they would receive a 1.5% raise.

The proposed raise in the $13.19 billion spending plan is smaller because budget writers have less new annual dollars to distribute.

It’s the same approach used during the budgeting process a year ago when lawmakers decided to give state employees making less than $50,000 a $2,500 pay raise. Those earning more than $50,000 received a 5% increase.

“If you think about inflation, there’s just a certain amount of necessities that you have to buy that cost more. And so when you’re looking at who does that affect the most, those people with the most tight budgets have the hardest time covering,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville.

The $1,000 or 1.5% raise will cost the state about $41 million more a year.

Granting a flat raise for those earning less than $66,667 gives a larger percentage pay raise to those who are on the lower end of the pay scale in state government.

“That’s a reflection of the dollars that we have available. It is a reflection of how well received the way we do the raise is. Everybody gets at least $1,000. Higher paid (employees) get more obviously, and it is just a recognition that funding is not as high as it was last year,” Bannister said.

Budget writers only have $660 million in new annual money, which pays for salaries and ongoing programs, to distribute, and it can be eaten up quickly by teacher pay raises, state employee health insurance, Medicaid increases and money to freeze college tuition.

“The post COVID boom is starting to subside and so we all need to sort of reset our expectations back to historic normal levels,” Bannister said. “Even though we have a surplus, this is a lean budget. Agencies are going to have to be efficient in how they use their new and existing resources.”

The House budget also includes $107 million to cover the increased premium costs for those on the state’s health insurance plan.

State employees on the health plan have only had one premium increase since 2006 and there have been no increases since 2012.

The Ways and Means budget proposal still needs to be approved by the House before going over to the Senate for the upper chamber’s consideration before going to the governor.

“I am so very proud of what we did last employee pay raises and hopefully by the end of this process, we’ll be able to add to this a little bit so that our state employees are not regressing,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a longtime advocate for state employees.