The South Carolina Senate approved a $5 billion spending plan early this morning that imposes fees to pay for law enforcement and delays decisions on how to deal with a billion-dollar budget hole until next year.
Like the House earlier this year, lawmakers worked through the night during often contentious 17-hour debate. A handful of Senators, led by Sens. Lee Bright and Shane Massey, argued the state should focus on higher-priority functions, such as law enforcement, and should scrap $45 million in hikes to court, vehicle registration and hunting and fishing license fees.
?A core service of government has to come and ask to be funded,? bellowed Bright, a Spartanburg Republican referring to state troopers in the Senate gallery. ?And we?re not outraged? I?m outraged! Our job is not to come in here and get our fair share. That is not our job?I?m here to stand in the gap.?
Massey, R-Aiken, pushed for an alternative to charging $50 to file a court deposition, saying the fee was ?another way to screw South Carolinians.?
The debate, in some ways, will be a prelude to next year when the state faces a budget gap of more than $1 billion due to federal stimulus aid ending and declining state revenues. A commission is currently studying state tax code to suggest changes, and one lawmaker, Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, said the state should again impose some taxes on groceries.