House budget gives last minute funding

By Jennifer Grove - bio | email

HORRY COUNTY, SC  (WMBF) - Representatives say people with special needs have something to celebrate as roughly $60 million for disability programs was approved through the State House budget.

Initially, many feared the money would be cut leaving the disabled without state funded programs. After an all night battle to pass their annual budget, representatives in Columbia say the newly passed House version will fully fund disability and special needs projects.

"We were able to eliminate all of the cuts for disabilities and special needs," Rep. Tracy Edge (R-Horry County) said. "Those people who have been really scared for the past couple of weeks that looming cuts were upon them don't have to worry anymore."

This comes after the possibility of cuts came up a few weeks ago, which sent disability program supporters to Columbia to fight for funding.

"The advocates did a great job of telling everybody what their needs were and what we needed to do to help fix them," Edge said. "Then we just had to go to work and find the money. I was never going to sleep well knowing they are going to be cut so we had to get rid of those cuts."

Edge says they are able to pay for the program with the help of promised federal funding that will match state dollars, but fellow Rep. Thad Viers (R-Horry County) who did not vote for the budget says he is not happy that they are counting on money that is not yet in the state's hands.

"I think every American knows that any promise by the federal government is not worth the paper it is written on," Viers said. "In this particular instance this bill has not even made it through Congress yet and I think we are taking a big risk that we should not have to take."

Along with the funding for special needs programs, representatives passed through $6 million in funding for tourism marketing around the state. Viers says often a majority of that money ends up in the Grand Strand for marketing efforts that are organized through the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nancy Gray, spokeswoman for the chamber, says they are pleased to see the House continue to support the tourism industry saying that to them that shows legislators see tourism as being a part of the state's budget solution.

"It's critical particularly during the shoulder season to boost that level of tourism and with the influx of marketing dollars we can do that," Gray explained.

Edge says if the Grand Strand doesn't sell itself in bad economic times, other people are going to sell themselves and win over the competition for tourism dollars.

"This is going to help broaden and expand the economy and hopefully help businesses keep going for the rest of the year," Edge went on to say.

The $5 billion House budget is not on its way to the State Senate for approval.

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