South Carolina House members and senators reached an agreement on the state’s $13 billion budget Thursday, barely 24 hours after a tense meeting where both sides appeared to be out of patience.
Thursday’s meeting was all smiles and jokes. The key sticking point — how much money to give Clemson University to make significant progress on the state’s first veterinary school — went to the Senate, which set aside $102 million. The House spending plan had about $8 million.
Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Harvey Peeler announced the deal, ticking off joint accomplishments like around $100 million toward a continuing effort to lower state income tax rates, this time from 6.5% to 6.4% as well as salary increases for almost all state employees and most state law enforcement officers and teachers.
“And something that is near and dear to my heart, we funded a new school of veterinary medicine at Clemson University,” a smiling Peeler said.
It was a very different mood from Wednesday, when Peeler scowled as Democratic House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said the Senate was “putting pets over people” and “the House being concerned with higher ed and the Senate being concerned with Mister Ed.”
It was the House members who were deferential during Thursday’s meeting,
“We’re not supposed to agree on everything. But when we disagree, we come together and we talk about it and we do what ’s best for the people of South Carolina,” Rutherford said.
Republican House Ways and Means Chairman Bruce Banister said he didn’t know whether Rutherford deserved credit or blame for creating a crisis after the Wednesday meeting. But it seemed to spur the deal.
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.