S.C. awaits stimulus fund boost to avoid painful budget cuts

The S.C. House will not have to tighten the belt on state spending quite so much when legislators begin debating the budget next week.

Congress is poised to approve $200 million more in state aid, which would reverse some proposed cuts in the $5.1 billion budget plan. And state revenues — which have been in free fall for two years — are stabilizing.

Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved a six-month extension for stimulus-related state health care money. House lawmakers said Thursday they plan to use the roughly $200 million to restore cuts that could have eliminated services for 26,000 of the state's disabled, cut access to state-funded health care for children in low-income families and restricted the number of prescription drugs for Medicaid patients.

"I think we've got everything fixed for this budget," said Rep. Tracy Edge, R-Horry, chairman of the House health care budget subcommittee.

The health care cuts have motivated advocates, since the Ways and Means Committee approved the budget two weeks ago, to fill the State House lobby, push lawmakers to restore funding for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and call and e-mailing lawmakers.

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