S.C. Legislature passes resolution to let state keep spending


COLUMBIA  - The South Carolina General Assembly finally passed a resolution Tuesday to allow state government to keep spending after the fiscal year ends as lawmakers try to get a handle on the damage to the economy done by the coronavirus.

The House passed a similar resolution April 8, but the Senate then passed its own proposal, changing some of the requirements put on state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

The proposal sets aside $175 million in money for emergency COVID-19 spending. That cash would go toward at least 1,000 contact tracers to find people who were in contact with an infected person and additional virus testing.

On Tuesday, the Senate agreed with the proposal despite a few senators who were concerned they should have taken more time to review the contact tracing portion.

It would also set aside $15 million to help with additional expenses to allow people to safely vote in the June 9 primary and $1.5 million to hire a private firm to help the state keep up with the $1.9 billion being sent from the federal government to fight the coronavirus.

Also on the agenda this week for the House and Senate is a resolution setting the parameters for a huge special session in September - hopefully when the pandemic has settled down - to write a new state budget.

The House passed a $10 billion budget before the pandemic began, but that was before the economy cratered. Economists estimate the state's planned $1.9 billion surplus in the budget year starting July 1 could be cut in half or worse.

The continuing resolution passed by the House would allow the state to keep spending at this year's budget levels even after the spending plan ends June 30.

An additional 147 cases and nine deaths were announced by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Tuesday, bringing the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 7,927 and those who have died to 355.