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Haley Calls Out Lawmakers Over Budget Stalemate

South Carolinians probably are accustomed to hearing talk of a government shutdown in Washington, D.C.

But in the sunny Palmetto State?

With only five days remaining in the state’s current fiscal year, the General Assembly is deadlocked on a spending plan for the new budget year that begins Sunday.

In lieu of an agreement, the Legislature is moving to take the highly unusual step of approving a resolution that would allow the state to continue operating at current spending levels.

Meanwhile, S.C. House and Senate budget conferees met Monday to try to iron out the last few wrinkles in a new state budget.

Despite hours of closed-door deliberations and debate between the two chambers, there was very little to show for it at the end of the day.

Two of the main arguments still being settled include tax relief for businesses and money to purchase additional property for the new State Farmers Market in Lexington County.

Gov. Nikki Haley weighed into the mix Tuesday morning, holding a news conference at the State House in which she expressed disappointment that the Legislature hasn’t finalized a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Haley also advocated tax relief for small businesses.

“We have a mantra in this State House where everybody says they’re for small businesses, and they say one thing and they do another,” Haley said. “You are either for small businesses or you’re not.”

Haley singled out Sen. John Land, D-Clarendon and a budget conference committee member, saying he “doesn’t want a tax relief, period.”

Land, citing the distribution of tax relief proposed by the House, said Monday that 44 percent of it would go to businesses that make more than $500,000 per year. He said that makes it a “big business bill” rather than help for small businesses.

Regarding $16.3 million the Senate has proposed to buy more land for the State Farmers Market, Haley said she had no opinion about it.

“And the reason is we haven’t seen a budget yet,” she said.

“I know that with the Farmers Market there are a lot of unanswered questions, and there’s a lot of gray around there; and so we’re kind of hearing it in bits and pieces,” Haley added.

The House has agreed to $1 million for additional Farmers Market land, but the two chambers remain far apart on the amount.

State Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern owns 15 acres expected to be purchased with the money.

As for a continuing resolution, the House has approved such a measure, and it awaits agreement by the Senate.

However, Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in Monday’s meeting that he was not interested in continuing to operate under the current year’s budget.

Reach Welch at (803) 254-4411 or blake@thenerve.org.

Budget General Assembly Taxes

State Farmers Market State Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern Gov. Nikki Haley Sen. John Land