South Carolina taxpayers will receive a $1 billion rebate that is part of the state budget approved by the General Assembly on June 15. The rebate could provide some individual taxpayers up to $800 – and of this writing it is now in the hands of Gov. Henry McMaster for approval.

The rebate is part of our $13.8 billion spending plan and comes on top of a tax cut that reduces the state’s top income tax rate and collapses several tax brackets to create a new two-rate system. It is one of those rare win-win situations for taxpayers. First-year savings from the tax cut will depend on an individual’s taxable income.

The new spending plan – the largest our state has ever seen – has been called “transformational” by some of my colleagues. Our booming South Carolina economy, especially along the coast and in the Greenville area, along with federal pandemic money that was pumped into the state in 2021/22 can be credited with providing us a $2 billion surplus. It is noteworthy that South Carolina recovered economically a lot more quickly from the pandemic than a lot of other states across the nation.

Our new budget enables us to not only help our taxpayers, but also makes huge investments in state services that in past years South Carolina simply could not afford.

We were also prudent enough to put more than $1 billion into “rainy day” reserves which will prevent us from needing to make cutbacks in the event our economy softens – which we hope doesn’t happen, but if so, we are prepared.

Other budget highlights include: A $4,000 increase in minimum teacher salaries to bring the state’s starting teacher pay to $40,000, a 3% raise and $1,500 bonus for state employees, and an increase in starring salaries and pay for law enforcement and correctional officers. There is also no inflation for tuition at SC’s public universities and colleges. For the fourth straight year, tuition for in-state undergraduate students is frozen at both four-year and two-year campuses.

It is worth pointing out that while local school districts are being provided with additional funding, it is up to the school districts individually to make the determination on how they will be making their local investments. $140 million was provided for capital improvements in disadvantaged school districts.

The 124th Legislative Session is now complete.

As this current legislative session drew to a close, I noted two bills that were passed into law during the final weeks that might interest you:

No Slow Pokes in Left Lanes – House Bill 3011 (also known as “Slower Traffic Move Right Bill”) states that the left lane on controlled access highways (those multi-lane highways that are free from any at-grade crossings with other roads) can be used only for passing other cars. The fine is $25.

Freedom of Religion Act – House Bill 3105 is now a new law in SC that designates churches as essential services and prohibits the government from shutting them down in another pandemic or other emergency.

Jeff Bradley is the representative for District 123 in the State House of Representatives.